Primary/Bristol: Avon Primary School

Mathew Houlding, Avon Primary, 2014. Photo: Max McClure. Image courtesy of the artist, Arnolfini and Bristol City Council.


The redevelopment of Avon 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 artist Matthew Houlding was commissioned by project curators Arnolfini to develop an artwork for the school working closely with pupils, teaching staff and Head Teacher.


Matthew Houlding embraces the idea of Artist as Craftsman, dedicated to the synthesis of sculpture, architecture and painting. His practice engages with the idea that art is capable of offering new ideas and solutions in the pursuit of a brighter future. Houlding’s sculptures offer a sense of energetic fragility, a sense of balance, certainty and security. They radiate the power of emotional exactitude and meticulous precision. The work conveys the idea of the constructed environment: architecture of place where the layering of images and materials produce ideas and structures that simultaneously evoke a history and a memory of time gone by, with the loaded potential of imagination and the pursuit of a new future. Houlding’s constructions are as much about the inventing of place as they are about the invention of places, where bespoke environments are meticulously built and manicured to fulfil an idealistic pursuit of the perfect place.

For Avon Primary Houlding Houlding created a work for one of the schools main corridor spaces in the older part of Avon Primary. His aim was to create a new mood and a new rhythm that works with the length of this space, creating something which was both visually stimulating and functional. Employing tables, storage and seating solutions the modular artwork fills the space an animates it. Coloured Perspex panels provide screens to the windows that flank the corridor which react with the external light, creating a tropical glow that is engaging, uplifting and positive. The mood intensity alters in relation to the  light intensity from outside. Houlding’s work adds a regulated and modern feel to this space, providing storage space, along with seating and table space for pupils to use and work, bringings together architecture, design and sculpture.

The work was completed in Summer 2014 and can be accessed by appointment with the school.

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

Matthew Houlding

Matthew Houlding's sculptures and collages draw us into a fantastic, retro-futuristic world, inspired by architectural forms and models, modernism and a childhood spent in East Africa. Houlding's recent sculptures and collages are a homage to the utopian zeal of modern architecture. Drawing on Structuralist and Formalist ideas of architectural design and the relationships between intersecting materials and planes, contrasting geometry is framed by bold, primary coloured Perspex, which casts a Californian sunny glow over split level condo-like exteriors and interiors. This juxtaposition of materials - from cardboard boxes to garden fencing and kitchen work tops - suggest human prescience and endeavour, reflecting the experience of architecture and space; hierarchy, opposition, separation, connection, transition and assimilation. The composition of colours and painted surfaces define figure/ground relationships within the work and convey materiality, physical and cultural context, symbolism and emotional response. Houlding's landscapes are, however, people free, yet suggest an inherent optimism and sublime future.

Matthew Houlding was born in Keighly, 1966. He lives and works in Todmorden, UK. Solo exhibitions include 'Under the Black Sun of Joy', ICIA, Bath, 2013; 'The Oceanic', Ceri Hand Gallery, London 2013; 'More Places to Get Away From It All', Touchstones Rochdale, 2012; 'The Chemosphere', New Art Gallery Walsall, 2010; 'Sons of Pioneers', Ceri Hand Gallery, Liverpool and The De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea, 2009. Group exhibitions include 'Art Across the City', LOWCS International, , Swansea, UK, 2013; 'Beautiful Things', The Next Door Project, Liverpool, UK, 2013; 'The Utopian Buck Stops Here', Bureau Gallery, Manchester, UK. 2013; 'Zombie Modernism', Malgras Naudet, Manchester, 2012; 'The End of the Future', Transition Gallery, London, 2012; 'A Private Affair', Harris Museum, Preston, 2012; 'Salon Art Prize', Matt Roberts Gallery, London, 2011; 'In Wonder', Vermilion, Manchester, 2011; 'Scheinbar Sein. Faktisches und Virtuelles. Universitatssammlungen. Kunst & Technic', Altana Gallery, Dresden, Germany, 2011; 'Urban Origami' Pumphouse Gallery, London, 2010 and 'Take Shape
–Make Shift // Pendre Forme – Provisoire', Les Instants Chavires, Paris, 2010.


Arnolfini is one of Europe’s leading independent, contemporary arts organizations, and is the flagship art centre for the South West of England with 450,000 visitors annually. 2011 is the year of Arnolfini’s 50th anniversary. Since its foundation in 1961, Arnolfini has built an international reputation for commissioning and presenting innovative, experimental work in the visual arts, always with a strong emphasis upon audience engagement. Many thousands of artists and performers have been involved with Arnolfini during this time, often gaining their first opportunity before going on to long-term success, and this wealth of creativity has been appreciated and enjoyed by consistently large audiences. Much of this groundbreaking work would not have been made or shown in Bristol and the South West region without the Arnolfini. Previous major solo exhibitions at Arnolfini have included: Marcel Broodthaers, Bridget Riley, Richard Long and Liam Gillick, as well as more recently Cosima von Bonin in 2011.

Avon Primary School

Avon Primary is tucked away from the bustle of Shirehampton on Barracks Lane and provides a quiet, safe environment for learning. The grounds are spacious, with an extensive playing field, separate infant and junior playgrounds and a secure outdoor learning area for Reception children. The class rooms are bright and there are generous work spaces between the rooms for groups to use. Avon Primary School takes pride in the relationships they build with their pupils and the mutual respect between pupils and staff resulting in a positive, caring and welcoming school.

  • Commissioner

    Bristol City Council

  • Produced by


  • Partners

    Primary Capital Programme (BCC, Skanska, LEP)

  • Supported by

    Bristol City Council