Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Richard Wilson:Stealing Space.

"I need that initial thing from the real world because I've always been concerned with the way you can alter someone's perception, knock their view off kilter. And to do that I need to start with something we think we understand" - Richard Wilson, 2005.

So far so much word salad, so much artist talk. In many ways Richard Wilson's Stealing Space at the Annely Juda Fine Art gallery near Bond Street confirms every gripe about the pretentiousness and pointlessness of contemporary art. There seems to have been, for quite some time, a lot of talk about a piece's 'relationship' with its environment and Wilson's oversized wooden sculptures seem, intentionally, to have a dysfunctional one with their space.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing. They're pleasant enough to peruse for a while. Ponder them and then move on. I didn't feel a great deal of emotion, or any really, but they were interesting enough to look at.

I've a soft spot for Richard Wilson though as his works are among the first contemporary art I ever went to see. His 20:50 was the highlight of an exhibition I saw at the old Saatchi Gallery in St.John's Wood. It's the room partly filled with highly reflective sump oil which gave the illusion of a room turned upside down. It was visually sensational and had a rather lovely aroma too. It was one of the first times it really clicked to me that there was something in this malarkey. That the setting, the materials, the experience were all key components in how you viewed a work. Not just what it represented but what it actually was.

Wilson's never really topped that work. Either in my eyes or the view of many proper art critics. Even his Slipstream sculpture at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 2, despite no doubt being seen by many more people, lives in the shadow of 20:50. The wooden sculptures at Annely Juda stand higher, in places, than the gallery's architectural beams. It seems as if they're trying to break out of their constraints in the way that an artist tries to forge new works without letting go of their past. Despite his continued success perhaps Wilson feels this particularly keenly.

Some seem to take the negative forms of a Rachel Whiteread sculpture. Not least Block of Dering (the leading photo in this piece) that reconfigures the façade of the gallery into something more cube like and more cubist. Even the gallery's signage is included. Preparatory sketches nearby shed light on the process if not the inspiration. Another room features the forms of inverted furniture. Wilson seems to be making the everyday look, in some way, 'other'. An admirable achievement and one he's, partially, succeeded in.

His boat sculptures, like Slice of Reality, invite us to have another look at our everyday surroundings. Well, if you live on a boat that is. I actually prefer these to his more abstracted works. There's something about seeing an inversion, or even a slight tweak, to the familiar that is aesthetically both satisfying and discomfiting at the same time. A cognitive dissonance that I can actually enjoy.

Like the circular portion carved out of the architectural model of a hotel façade we're asked to consider something we've seen many times before from a different angle or perspective. There's plenty of chin stroking, a small helping of pseudy bollocks, but also a rather delightful diversion that won't cost you a penny or detain you for very long at all. Worth a look.

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