The White Cube aesthetic of gallery design, with white walls, white lighting and highly polished concrete floor comes alive when the art is reflected in the floor, creating a further dimension to the experience for the viewer, like watching lights playing in a dark pond of water or floodlit buildings along the River Thames, the Seine or the River Danube.
The swirling white lights of Cerith Wyn Evans contrast with Robert Irwin’s precise parallel sculptures, all flowing downwards to be reflected upwards.
Captured in the gallery floor, Cerith Wyn Evans’ energetic neon lights and floating musical organ are influenced by his early career in films where he worked with directors such as Derek Jarman. The hanging sculptures capture the movements of the Japanese Noh theatre, like a photographic image caught in time, and the circles of Marcel Duchamp’s work “The Bride stripped Bare by her Bachelors”, while the room is filled with the sombre sounds from Wyn Evan’s sound sculpture of 19 transparent curved flutes (there is another in the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris). Adding a slightly theatrical touch, slowly-rotating potted plants are scattered throughout the room.
Across the corridor, everything is more controlled. The energetic swirling lights have gone; instead Robert Irwin’s more restrained sculptures use florescent tubes covered by coloured gels to create a variety of colours which feels like an imaginative controlled scientific experiment in the laboratories of King’s College London, located at London Bridge, a short distance away from the gallery.
Irwin has been experimenting with fluorescent light over the last 30 years, most recently here and in the Pace Gallery in New York, experimenting with coloured gels that alter the transmission of the light.
At the centre of the room, the ‘Black Painting’ (2015) shows how black can become an ever-changing mirror, reflecting the viewer across to two clear columns which rise up through the gallery; one moment they almost disappear, while at another moment there is a double reflection. There is something mystical about the light and reflections of the columns – imagine if the people who created Stonehenge had such technology – how would it look? Irwin has explained that the columns ‘sit on a delicate edge’, creating conditions where ‘you don’t think about whether it’s art or not art. It’s just about what you’re seeing or not seeing.’ In his home town of San Diego, Irwin has installed a 33 ft acrylic column at the Federal Courthouse which, being reflects daylight, sunlight and shadows from clouds through the day.
This is an exhibition where the art and the gallery environment work together to create something new. The highly polished floors add reflections which make all the works float, as if above a river, and give a further dimension to the installations.