Richard Wilson

She came in through the bathroom window


Not on display

Richard Wilson born 1953
Paper, card, mount board, wood, black and white gelatin silver print on paper and graphite
Object: 356 × 291 × 240 mm
Presented in memory of Adrian Ward-Jackson by Weltkunst Foundation 2015


This is one of a number of preparatory drawings and models in Tate’s collection relating to Richard Wilson’s installation She came in through the bathroom window 1989 (Tate T14354; see Tate T14355T14358). This is an installation in which the very fabric of the gallery is significantly altered by removing a window from its original setting in the wall and bringing it into the gallery space. The work was first shown in 1989 at Matt’s Gallery in Martello Street, East London and was the third in a series of installations that Richard Wilson constructed for Matt’s, the first two being Sheer Fluke in 1985 and 20:50 in 1987 (Saatchi Collection, London). She came in through the bathroom window is typical of the way in which Wilson transforms architectural spaces using industrial materials. In works that are deceptively minimal – despite his recourse to the procedures of the construction engineer or the light industrial workshop – Wilson sets out to destabilise established perceptions of architectural space and structure, heightening our awareness of our everyday surroundings.

For the installation a section of the metal-framed window that ran along one exterior wall of Matt’s Gallery was removed and brought into the gallery space, suspended at its original level, but at an angle to its original orientation, eighteen feet into the room at its longer side and ten feet at the shorter. A metal frame structure ran out from the window, through the hole in the wall and protruded outside. The top and bottom edges of the frame were boarded in a material that replicated the feeling of a generic false ceiling; the sides of the frame were covered in a concertinaed white rubberised PVC material. The work reversed or otherwise played with the relationship between interior and exterior space in such a way as to destabilise the beholder’s point of view. Equally, by moving the window into the gallery space, the edge described by the window section was repositioned at the centre of the room, the plane of the window being redefined as mass or volume (the contained space between window and wall aperture). Additionally, the critic Michael Archer observed:

the whole thing formed a kind of lens, or bellows, turning the space into an inverted camera. Where outside ended and inside began was now called into question, and in what way the window acted to facilitate exchange between the two environments was equally uncertain. The effect was as if the outside, normally the place that would passively receive the gaze, directed from within, of those standing at the window, had become active and begun to push its way into the gallery.
(Archer 2001, p.12.)

When he was invited by Robin Klassnik, the director of Matt’s Gallery, to make this third installation, Wilson decided to make a work that was a direct contrast to his previous installation there, 20:50, for which the gallery became a container for sump oil. This was experienced by the visitor by walking along a steel walled trench into the midst of the tray of oil that acted as a mirror for the building’s windows and ceiling. Where this earlier work relied on illusion, for Wilson the point of She came in through the bathroom window was ‘its total physicality, the fact that the window has been removed and relocated, and the viewer can touch and see through it. The work has an incredible physical presence.’ (Quoted in Irish Museum of Modern Art 1997, p.56.) However, despite this contrast, both works describe what has continued to be an abiding concern for Wilson throughout his career – his ambition to make work that addresses place and explicitly the often destabilised position of the body within any given place.

Wilson’s choice of title for She came in through the bathroom window is taken directly from a Paul McCartney song of the same name (from the 1969 Beatles album Abbey Road) – exemplifying a punning approach to titling that Wilson has continued through his career. Here the choice of title not only describes the movement of the window through space but also the trajectory of a person and their relationship to a view through a window, a point that Wilson explained at the time was central to his conception of the work: ‘It’s an installation piece not an object. I like activating architectural spaces as sculpture; the space, the window and the remaining area around the window will be part and parcel of the total experience as the viewer comes into the room.’ (Quoted in Irish Museum of Modern Art 1997, p.56.)

Further reading
Breaking the Mould, British Art of the 1980s and 1990s. The Weltkunst Collection, exhibition catalogue, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 1997, illustrated p.57.
Michael Archer, Richard Wilson, London 2001, illustrated pp.66–71.
Simon Morrissey, Richard Wilson, London 2005, illustrated p.36.

Andrew Wilson
August 2013

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