Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Grand Old Duke of York

My first cultural outing saw me taking in the wonder that is the Saatchi Gallery, also in Chelsea.
I had originally anticipated it being a space in which was showcased a rotating selection of Charles and Doris Saatchi's private art collection.
But no.
It is in fact a gallery created to exhibit the works of emerging or little known contemporary British artists, and contemporary artists from elsewhere who are relatively unknown in the UK.
First established over 25 years ago, the Gallery has been in its current location since 2008.
And that location is magnificent.

Adjacent to a sprawling luscious lawn, the gallery is housed in the former of Duke of York's Headquarters, an elegant late Georgian building (completed 1801), complete with so many of my favourite features, including beautifully aged red brick, fan light windows and a Pantheon-like portico popped on the front.
The interior, however, does kind of kill me. Very few signs of the original interior remain, and I am all about a traditional architectural feature.
However, I do love the original being juxtaposed to the contemporary, particularly when done so unapologetically, where the contrast gives integrity to both styles, and they appear seamlessly joined.

Of course, of greater import are the works on show. And of all the amazing pieces I saw the one that resonated the most for me was this incredible installation. It is a site specific installation that occupies the entirety of a single massive room. It is the work of Richard Wilson, one of Britain's most celebrated sculptors

The immediate effect of the work on the viewer is one of great calm, despite having very little idea what the work actually is. And to describe it won't do it justice, but I'll try.

The railing you see in the above image is on the purpose built viewing mezzanine. 
The thin black line you see around the perimeter and the pillar is the rim of a tray fixed to the wall. This tray is filled with oil. And the effect, although mildly confusing, is in fact mesmerising. For what appears on the surface of the oil is in fact the reflection of everything above the tray.
The oil, although shallow, conveys a sense of a bottomless pool.

And into this pool is submerged a sunken and tapering walkway to nowhere.

I am not an art critic, so I won't endeavour to 'explain' this work. But I did enjoy how it deeply challenged notions of space and texture, in an incredibly provoking way, but without causing any discomfort. 

The Saatchi Gallery, and this work specifically, is absolutely one of the major highlights of my trip.

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