Wednesday, 13 August 2014

300. 20:50 by RICHARD WILSON


20:50, by Richard Wilson, used sump oil, steel

Down in the basement of the Saatchi Gallery in King’s Road, Chelsea, is what some believe to be the most important work of British art of the past few decades. 

It was created over 20 years ago and has moved around a bit. I first saw it in a slightly different configuration. I vividly recall a close encounter with a lake of recycled sump oil, a metal walkway placing me, waist deep, at the centre of the installation. Inches away, reaching the top of the walkway wall lay the oil, thick, smelly, sticky, lazy, hazardous, indelible.  It was also beautiful, shimmering, glistening, the colour of midnight and sleep.

Now it’s viewed standing on a balcony behind a transparent low wall, a little unnerving for the vertiginous. Below is a holographic field which looks at the same time like  a polished floor and an infinitely  clear pool as it mirrors and absorbs and reflects the gallery’s architecture.While I was there a number of young couples speaking various languages came and went, the men seemed to be explaining, the women listening. Not easy. The liquid is transformed into something seemingly solid. 
but the catalogue assures me that the room is entirely flooded. My eyes don't believe me. I am disorientated, mesmerised. Where is logic?
The 'lake' is utterly still, yet alive with energy..The only colour in the room is in the four scarlet cylinders leaning against the balcony wall. 

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