Re-evaluating our relationship to space – Richard Wilson, Stealing Space, exhibition review
When l saw an image of the installation of Richard’s show l was intrigued and decided to visit. Richard Wilson, the Turner Prize-nominated artist, has been exhibiting for 35 years and has won universal critical acclaim. In this review of his exhibition ‘Stealing Spaces’ at the Annely Juda Fine Art gallery in London l was interested in how he uses different materials and ideas to draw attention to our relationship with space. His work titled, ‘20:50‘ (1987) is an installation of oil in a room up to waist height and helped draw attention to his practice which uses methods of engineering combined with his interest in architecture.
This quote from ‘Richard Wilson’ by Simon Morrissey, Tate Publishing 2005, page 7, gives us an insight to his way of thinking.
“I need that initial thing from the real world because I’ve always been concerned with the way you alter someone’s perception, knock their view of kilter. And to do that I need to start with something we think we understand.”
This idea that you can ‘alter someone’s perception’ is something I can completely relate to and try to achieve in my own work and is the reason I find Richard’s work fascinating. In his work Richard encourages the viewer to reconsider and re-evaluate common spaces, thereby opening up a very rich and productive exploration of physical space.
I believe that Richard’s work shows the importance of the artist’s role in finding a humble idea that has previously been overlooked, and make it into art by develop it into a life-long practice, elevating it up to something purposeful and meaningful and thereby adding wonder.
When I first saw the two large sculptures made from familiar materials squeezed into the white rooms they made me wonder how he achieved the aim of getting those big structures up the stairs. When viewing, Space Between the Landing and the Gallery (2017) plywood on wood and metal, 310 x 740 x 101 cm, my attention is drawn to what I took for granted when I walked up the four flights of stairs moments ago. While viewing the installation I wanted to re-consider my short journey up the stairs. I did not notice the interesting details from the stair banister and steps, the significance of the space created and my relationship to these spaces. My thoughts lead me to contemplate, Marcel Duchamp’s, ‘Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912) oil on canvas, in a new way. I thought how a person moves through space and they ascend and descend stairs and I found this interplay of connections and ideas intriguing.
I can see why Richard makes a minimum of 3 sketches a day as I found his small framed drawings compelling and it is clearly the primary foundation of his ideas and practice. If I had one criticism of the exhibition, it would be that I would have loved to see the original sketchbook drawings to discover how Richard’s ideas started and progressed rather than just the finished sketches and finished installation. I would have been very interested in understanding how he developed his ideas and this would have taken this exhibition to another level.
The installations, models and drawings in the show made me take another look at the external and internal space, the positive and negative space, and to reconsider my memories and experience of moving through space. This exhibition of Richard Wilson’s work has forced me to reassess architecture’s relationship and my response to space. I realised I am overlooking the beauty of the familiar, the layers of meaning as I walk through a space and the resulting memories of the journeys I take. The exhibition, as a result, was one of surprise and delight and I walked away feeling I had learnt a great deal about using and understanding art and space.