Bringing together the pieces of my jigsaw puzzle proposal, brought me to one of my earlier artists references – Olafur Eliasson. He creates stunning installation pieces, often using or demonstrating natural phenomenon. Possibly one of my favourite artists of all time – even though I have only seen age of his pieces first hand.
To explain his work, I found some extracts from a great article on Eliasson’s MoMA exhibition Take your time.
“Eliasson is the master of inverting your expectations. Anything that you think you know about a space or a material goes out the window. His strength as an artist is his ability to look at materials or phenomenonal effects with a fresh eye. He is able to isolate the raw potential of a material so that it can be used to transform the experience of the viewer.”
“It is no coincidence that most of Eliasson’s exhibitions include the word “Your” in the title. He wants to emphasize that the experience is yours and not his. He sets up the environment and makes the work but after that you are on your own. Your participation and your awareness are a critical components to the completion of the work.”
“When you are walking through a science museum, the experience is about learning about the science between basic scientific phenomena. This is achieved by demonstrating basic scientific principles with simple models. The experience is about the principle behind the model. The model is the means for communicating the idea. Eliasson is able to take the raw experience of a visit to a science museum so that the experience of the models is enough. The experience does not have to be in the service of some concept or scientific principle. Science works from the specific to the general. Most art works in the opposite way; it works from general the specific. The distinction highlights the polarity between art and science. Both Hirst and Elliason take from the general, whether it is an animal, insect or scientific principle, and distills it down until that is something very specific. In certain circumstances and when seen with the right frame of mind, the specific can even become art.
A good example of this would Eliasson’s sublime Beauty from 1993. When you experience this work you walk into a space with black walls, floors, and ceiling. There is only one light fixture which points at a very gently falling mist that is produced from some overhead sprinklers. Other than the light and the mist the room is empty. You do not have anything to look at except for the falling mist. The light produces iridescent and rainbow like effects as the light is diffracted on the tiny droplets of water as it descends. The effect is not that different from looking at the mist from Multnomah Falls in the Gorge. But because the effect is isolated, the water transforms as it descends. The water becomes almost hair like and sometimes, for a split second, the mist becomes sculptural like it was made out of metal or stone.
In Beauty, not only is the set up great, but it is the transformation that makes the work successful. Water is allowed to do what it does naturally, but in the process becomes something much more rich and complex than you might have expected. It is always water but it becomes more than water. A parallel might be the way the Jackson Pollock dripped paint. The paint is controlled not only by the movement of Pollock’s body but it is also based on a series of natural characteristics as well: gravity, the viscosity of the paint, and the height of Pollock’s brush/stick above the canvas to name a few. Each of the characteristics is variable that leave their fingerprint on the work. In Eliasson’s case he uses fewer variables but they are exploited to great effect. He uses water with its unique optical properties, a misting system, and a light fixtures that would highlight the diffraction of the water. His achievement is that the final work transcends the materials that are used to make it.”
While most of Eliasson’s work has to do with the optical properties of different materials the Model room is about an exploration of geometry and mathematics. The models are a way of making the geometry real. The mathematics are allowed to reveal their own inherent beauty. While the geometry itself is naturally compelling and beautiful the room lacks the specificity of other installations in the exhibition. You are never sure if the geometrical models are ends in and of themselves, or stepping stones in larger projects. Eliasson might enjoy that ambiguity. The model room is an interesting addition to the exhibit because the experience is completely different than the work in the rest of the show. You feel like you might be walking into Buckminster Fuller’s studio to view various works and geodesics in progress.
“You are reminded of a certain innocence about Eliasson’s work. It is a kind of wild eyed wonder at the mystery and potential of the world. It might be a kind of wonder about the properties of certain materials like water but it also might be about a simple beauty of certain shapes. The Model room is made of probably a hundred geodesic models mostly made of configurations of small triangles. It is a strange contrast to the rest of the exhibition. Most of the exhibition is very experiential but this room is about a collection of shapes and geometries that suggest new configurations of the shapes and surface that form a recurring theme in Eliasson’s work.”
And some other of his great inspirational work
And a TED Talk which I will figure out how to embed properly