Born in Blackburn in Lancashire, Wilding studied at the Nottingham College of Art, the Ravensbourne College of Art and Design in Chislehurst and, from 1970 to 1973, the Royal College of Art in London. She rose to prominence around the late 1970s.
Wilding's early works are multi-media installations, but she is best known for her later abstract sculptures which use a wide variety of materials. She has used traditional materials, such as wood, stone and bronze, alongside others like steel, wax, silk, and rubber, as well as found objects. These are often used in unusual combinations: Stormy Weather (1987), for example, is made from pigment, beeswax and oil rubbed into galvanised steel. Of her eclectic media, Wilding has said "I like stuff and not particular materials."
In 1991, a major retrospective of Wilding's work, Alison Wilding: Immersion – Sculpture from Ten Years, was held at Tate Liverpool. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1988 and 1992, and made a Royal Academician in 1999. Her only large-scale public artwork "Ambit" was installed in the River Wear at Sunderland in 1999, taking the form of a necklace of stainless-steel tubes floating in the river, and lit up from underwater at night. It was subsequently exhibited in the Manchester Ship Canal and is now in storage.
Wilding was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to Art.
- Alison Wilding , the first critical survey of Wilding's work, published by Lund Humphries and edited by Jo Applin and Briony Fer. 
- Alison Wilding: Art School Drawings from the 1960s and 70s , published by Ridinghouse to coincide with her exhibition of the same title at Karsten Schubert, London (9 June - 29 July 2011). Karsten Schubert is the artist's main agent.
- Alison Wilding: Tracking , featuring essays by Judy Collins, Sam Porritt and Rod Mengham. Published by Ridinghouse.
- Royal Academy of Arts: Alison Wilding RA | Artist | Royal Academy of Arts, accessdate: 29/08/2014
- Barnett, Laura (2014). "Alison Wilding, sculptor – portrait of the artist | Art and design | The Guardian". theguardian.com. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- "Alison Wilding | Tate". tate.org.uk. 2014. Archived from the original on 11 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- "Alison Wilding | CASS Sculpture Foundation". sculpture.org.uk. 2014. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- Applin, Jo; Fer, Briony (2018). Alison Wilding. London: Lund Humphries. p. 9. ISBN 9781848222656. OCLC 1004765898.
- "BBC - Archive - British Sculptors - Five Sculptors | Alison Wilding". bbc.co.uk. 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- "Alison Wilding (The University of Manchester)". whitworth.manchester.ac.uk. 2014. Archived from the original on 2013-09-19. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
won a Paul Hamlyn award in 2008
- "Alison Wilding". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
- "Alison Wilding: Art School Drawings from the 1960s and 70s". Retrieved 15 November 2018.
- "Alison Wilding: Tracking". Ridinghouse. Retrieved 5 August 2012.