Primary/Bristol: Ashley Down Primary School

Tom Dale, ‘Aztec Collider’ (detail), 2013. Photo © Carl Newland Photography. Courtesy of the artist, Arnolfini & Bristol City Council.


The redevelopment of Ashley Down Primary School is part of Bristol City Council’s Primary/Bristol series of artist commissions for primary schools commissioned as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme. As part of the development British artist Tom Dale was commissioned by project curators Arnolfini in 2012 to develop an art work for the school working closely with pupils, teaching staff and Head.


In order to produce his work 'Aztec Collider' Tom Dale started with a number of workshops with a year 2 class, to get an idea of what the children knew of the world beyond their school, the furthest they had travelled and their conception of the world. From these workshops Dale decided that his commission should allow children to think about where they might want to go, or who they might want to be in life, albeit in a playful way. It seemed the most appropriate vehicle - not just in terms of a ‘flight of fancy’ - but in terms of what could be sourced for the sculpture was an actual plane; with a real history that could fuel the children’s excitement and imagination.

Although central to the art work, Dale was keen to present the plane in a way that would bring other ideas into the play. To allow this a geometric steel structure was developed to encase the plane, which are in turn, inset with tinted Perspex screens. Based loosely on Sol Lewitt’s ‘incomplete cube’ series the structure functions a metaphor for minimalist sculpture, often based on very rational and logical rules, but which in this case, is fused with a structure that has a velocity and excitement to it. The coloured Perspex panels accentuate this, whilst allowing for children to view their surroundings through different colours suggesting the excitement of impossible trajectories and exotic destinations.

This project has been made possible through funding from Bristol City Council as part of the Primary Capital Education Programme.

Tom Dale

Recently named the Guardian newspaper’s ‘Artist of the Week’, Dales work regularly appears in publications such as Flash Art, Art Review, Time Out, and Dazed & Confused. A Graduate of the Goldsmiths College, London he has been nominated for a number of awards most recently the Latitude festivals Contemporary Art Award.  He is currently completing his PhD at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Recent and forthcoming solo exhibitions include CAN, Neuchatel (2012), NIMAC, Cyprus (2013) Poppy Sebire, London (2013), and John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2014)". Dale’s work is witty, diverse and is concerned with grand gestures and contradictions. Sculptures inspired by Evel Knievel: twisting stunt ramps emblazoned with stars and stripes , a series of photographs probing the history of contrasting ideologies on a Polish housing estate and recently his installation at Ham House, ‘Banquet of Sound’, which traces the contradictory, tangled branches of culture to do with learning, democracy and instability. Dale's most witty expression of the empty grand gesture is an early work from 2005, in which a large grey ball is attached to the wheel from an office chair. Instead of becoming more effective, both objects are rendered lame and immobile. It's a case study in absurd overstatement.

Ashley Down Primary School

Ashely Down Primary is a split site school federation that brings together Ashley Down Infant School and Ashley Down Primary School, including the new Brunel Field site. The original Infant and Junior School buildings on Downend Road and Olveston Road have been serving the community of Ashley Down and Horfield for over 100 years and currently have 2 classes in each year group from Reception up to Year 6. The new Brunel Field site, off Ashley Down Road and next to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and City of Bristol College, can also accommodate 2 classes in each year group from Reception up to Year 6. The new site has been open for 3 years and is filling up classes from Reception year on year.

  • Commissioner

    Bristol City Council

  • Produced by


  • Partners

    Primary Capital Programme (BCC, Skanska, LEP)

  • Supported by

    Bristol City Council