Since his first installations in the late 1960s, Californian artist Robert Irwin has taken the perceptual experience of the viewer as his subject, and the art object as something that, in his terminology, is 'conditional' – intrinsically connected to the changeable conditions of its environment.
“There is simply no real separation line, only an intellectual one, between the object and its time environment,” he explains in his celebrated book of conversations with Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (1982). “They are completely interlocking: nothing can exist in the world independent of all other things in the world.”
Robert Irwin, 'Piccadilly', 2012. © 2012 Robert Irwin. Photograph © 2013 Philipp Stolz Rittermann.
Occupying the entire ground floor of Pace London in Burlington Gardens,
Irwin’s installation Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue³ III uses mirrored surfaces to allow the viewer an exquisite examination of the gallery environment. Three large-scale reflective panels run the width on the floor, with identical panels facing downwards from directly above, hanging from the ceiling.
Robert Irwin, 'Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow & Blue³ III', 2012. © 2012 Robert Irwin. Photograph © 2013 Philipp Stolz Rittermann.
Images of the gallery bounce between the mirrors ad infinitum, meaning myriad perceptions for the viewer: floor to ceiling columns appear to run on forever, while windows repeat and merge together. The front sections of each of the panel pairs are coloured respectively red, yellow and blue, so that as one walks around the space, different chromatic effects can be experienced as the defused daylight from the windows is reflected.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine