A recent visit to the exhibition of work by Nike Savas at Leeds Art Gallery led me to think about the importance of scale for installation artists.
A central installation, eponymous piece ‘Liberty and Anarchy’ will take over the largest gallery and will involve 18 large screens which hold hundreds of individually placed, taut plastic, brightly coloured ribbons. The installation can only be fully appreciated in person as it creates a three-dimensional moiré effect ( from the Leeds Gallery web site)
This piece was completely immersive . It could only be fully appreciated and experienced by working along and between the screens.
Having seen this piece I began to think about how it would appear in a different space. The work itself was completely determined in my mind by the dimensions of the space it occupied. So it could be called a site specific installation, it could be installed in another space but the effect on the viewer would be different.
Scale is so important. A piece that is large, overpowering and intriguing may on a smaller scale seem mean and cramped. Try and imagine how Gormley’s Angel of the North would seem if it was only 6 foot tall or if it was 12 foot tall. The power if the piece is in its scale. Rachel Wells has recently written around the whole area of scale in Scale in Contemporary Sculpture-
For the installation artist access to an appropriate space is problematic. Savas earned her right to the space at the gallery through her previous reputation but for the emerging installation artist this space would not be available .
Installation is always problematic. It does not sell – so the commercial gallery is not really interested. It will take up a lot of space and not leave space for any other work. At best it will attract visitors to a space and may prove prestigious .
Group shows rarely have enough space for an installation piece, or it is away from the general exhibition and to that extent is side lined.
It seems to me that for the installation artist the first hurdle is to find somewhere to show their installation. This means that , in many ways, the first skill that an installation artist needs is the ability to convince others that an installation piece is suitable for their space.