Olafur Eliasson An influential and widely acclaimed contemporary artist
A BRIEF HISTORY Born in Copenhagen, Denmark 1967 to Icelandic parents. 1989-1995 Olafur studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen In 1995, Olafur established Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin, a laboratory for spatial research. Presently, Olafur divides his time between his family’s home in Copenhagen, his studio in Berlin and periods of work in Iceland. Eliasson’s practice is informed by his homelands country’s primordial landscape and spectacular weather. He recontextualises elements such as light, water, ice, fog, arctic moss and lava rock. Olafur had his first solo show with pen drawings in a non-profit gallery in Denmark at 15.
For the past 15 years, Olafur Eliasson, a 42 year old artist has created art that engages perceptual, ecological, and temporal themes such as; perception and reality, nature and technology, and individual and environment. He does this by by harnessing abundant elements such as; water, light and mist in installations.
These installations incorporate natural phenomena, yet are produced in an artificially constructed environment. (National Gallery of Victoria, 2006)
Olafur aims to create circumstances that shift the viewer’s consciousness and sense of place.
??? What other artists aim to stimulate these same things in a viewer?
Olafur Eliasson Exhibition
“ The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) presents the must-see contemporary art event of the year, Take your time: Olafur Eliasson. Gathering works from major collections world wide, it spans Eliasson’s diverse career from 1993 to the present, including installations, sculpture and photography . It is the first large-scale exhibition of works by this Danish-Icelandic artist to be presented in Australia.”
– Museum of Contemporary Art, 2004.
Can you define these different art terms?
Olafurs ‘Take Your Time’ exhibition first opened in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2007-2008).
The exhibition then travelled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York and Contemporary Art Centre, Queens New York (2008).
Next, Dallas Museum of Art Texas for (2008-2009).
Then on to Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2009).
Lastly, the exhibition has arrived in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2009-2010).
The exhibition features more than a dozen installations, photographs, and sculptures arranged in a series on interconnected rooms and corridors.
Olafur Eliasson, creates immersive environments that viewers can't help but interact with. (Dent, 2009). The exhibition has wonderful visual appeal. You enter each work physically; you're surrounded by it and they involve all the senses. It's a pleasurable experience on all levels.
Throughout the slideshow, whilst exploring some of Olafur’s works, try and make links to the elements of design (line, shape, form, direction, size, space, tone, colour, texture and time) and determine how Olafur uses these elements to enhance his artworks and convey meaning.
Exiting from the lift on level three of the museum, you are lured into the tunnel of glass and metal by a prismatic series of multi-coloured triangles. Natural light spills in from Circular Quay creating a fragmented collage of colour and light that constantly shifts as you walk through. But once you’re at the end, turn around. What lies behind is an opaque, metallic structure — a muted version of the colourful kaleidoscope.
This is one of Eliasson’s most emotive works, producing a formal situation that allows the participant to recognise how perspective functions; how things appear, and often are, different when we look back at them. This experience is not limited to the museum, but resonates within our everyday lives (Chapman, 2009).
“ The Installations are experimental setups and I hope visitors feel this. If the artworks make you think about what you see and how you see it, I think I’ve achieved something. And you can bring this with you outside the museum as well”
– Olafur Eliasson (Red Studio)
What emotions does this artwork evoke in you?
Do you believe Eliasson’s artwork is a thorough representation of a human emotion? ( the human ability to look back on a situation and see things differently)
What are the main elements of design in this artwork?
Moss Wall The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009
Erecting the two-storey ‘Moss Wall', involved a team of volunteers hand-stuffing a chicken-wire frame with Nordic moss over a one-month period. The natural world, Rachel Kent (MCA Curator in Dent 2009) says is one of Eliasson's inspirations, together with mathematics, geometry, and colour theory. "But underlying all these concerns is a strong interest in the viewer's experience - in ways of shifting their perceptions." - Dent, 2009.
The visual texture of the piece is incredible, also the gradient when the natural light comes through is amazing. Even though this piece is technically dead, the colour is still beautiful. - Saccardo , 2009.
A deeper look into Moss Wall
Olafurs works are said to explore the boundary between organic and the artificial. How do you think this subject is explored here?
Organically this masterpiece has been created using real moss from Norway, yet technically moss is dead and has been artificially transported to a gallery wall. So is this texture natural or unnatural?
Olafurs ‘Sunset Kaleidoscope’ is a protruding rectangular structure that penetrates the skin of the museum, creating a connection between the inside and the outside. What you see is a perspective of the world remade anew.
– Mu, 2009.
Look at the art work from a subjective point of view ( What do I feel about this work?), now a structural point of view ( How has the composition been organised?, What techniques, materials have been used?)
Olafur is said to ‘recontextualise earthly elements, to shift the viewers consiousness and sense of place’, how do you think this artwork achieves this?
This art work illusion is the result of a single perforated watering hose that runs along the floor, north wall and ceiling of a purpose-built exhibition-room. From here a fine curtain of water naturally falls to the floor. Directly opposite a suspended spotlight is positioned to allow sufficient white-light to illuminate water, and so completing a process of lit refraction. Whilst these are the mechanical components of the art work, the ‘work’ – itself is an awkward description for the person-to-person rainbows that appear – is a reminder that the finite is as dramatic as the immense. – Mu, 2009.
"You enter a dark space and in the middle is a sheer, very delicate curtain of water, like a drizzle, that is so delicate it shimmers like silk. Lights shone onto the water create an incredible optical effect that is essentially a rainbow." (Kent, 2009)
Olafur says “I don’t really think about the impact or the materials. I’m more interested in exploring questions such as; Do you feel a part of this world?, How do you use your senses?, Do your actions have consequences?, How can we link our brain to our bodies?”
> How do you think this artwork allows us to think about these questions?
>What design elements enable this to happen?
The Cubic Structural Revolution
This particular installation invites visitors to participate in the construction of a cityscape using thousands of pieces of Lego.
Elliason places a high value on the contribution of an audience saying “I see that the person, when engaging in a project of mine, influences the meaning generated” (National Gallery of Victoria, 2009 )
Eliasson allows this opportunity for people so that they are active participants to the constantly evolving work of collaborative art.
“ I don’t think the materials have specific qualities themselves. They don’t have an intrinsic value. But when I bring moss into a museum or make water run upwards or produce artificial mist, I can get people to reflect on these phenomena. I take the natural materials and displace them into the museum context. I think its really important to realise that nature isn’t just out there, it isn’t “natural” – its always organised by our individual perspective” (Olafur Eliasson, in Red Studio) .
> Now that you have experienced some of Eliasson’s artworks, what is you opinion on his use of materials?
Eliasson believes none of his works become ‘works of art’ until you experience them. So is it the material that makes the artwork, or the human emotional experiences provoked by the artwork?
For further thoughts on Olafur’s emothional attatchment to his art watch: http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v =lc3MHdaWt2I
Chapman, T. (2009). One Way Colour Tunnel. URL: http://eliasson.com.au/one-way-colour-tunnel-2007/ (accessed 29 January, 2009)
Dent, N. (2009).Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson. URL: http://www.timeoutsydney.com.au/arts/event/14214/take-your-time-olafur-eliasson.aspx (accessed 28 January, 2009)