[April 10 2015]
Created over 20 years ago, Richard Wilson’s 20:50 installation currently resides permanently at the Saatchi Gallery London. Wilson has filled the gallery waist-high with recycled engine oil, from which the piece takes its name. A walk way leads from a single entrance, leading the viewer into the space until they are surrounded by oil on all sides. The impenetrable, reflective surface of the oil mirrors the architecture of the room exactly, placing the viewer at the mid-point of a symmetrical visual plane.
Wilson wrote about the conception of 20:50 in the Guardian in 2003, “The idea of a Tardis-like space, where the internal volume is greater than its physical boundaries, had always appealed to me. That was how the idea for 20:50 came about. I’ve always been concerned with the ways you can change architectural space – whether it be a room or a whole building – to alter your perception, to knock your view of the world off-kilter.
The central idea finally came to me after weeks beside a swimming pool, during a holiday in the Algarve. I was due to make a new piece for Matt’s Gallery in the east end of London when I returned, and over the weeks I became increasingly fascinated with the horizontal surface of the pool. One day it hit me, and I thought: “I know – I’ll flood the place.” The oil became part of the piece because I knew it had a highly reflective surface. There had been a drum of the stuff sitting in my old studio, without a lid, that I’d been meaning to get rid of. In the meantime, all sorts of rubbish had accumulated around it, and I always loved the way that among all these bits of junk there was this void, this perfect reflection. That was the final piece of the jigsaw.”
Photo Ekaterina Bazhenova