Brilliant Ideas Episode #32: Olafur Eliasson
Artist who embraces the nature and crosses the Mother Nature
Opening a new chapter in art
Nature’s elements such as the sun, waterfalls, and mist inspire Olafur Eliasson. Having traveled back and forth between Denmark and Iceland, where his father lived, and experiencing its vast nature in his childhood years, he has created artworks contemplating the relationship between the nature and technology.
Based on the visual arts and also encompassing various areas including philosophy, architecture, and design, his works propose a new angle on art, influencing the public attitude toward artworks. Brilliant Ideas Episode #32 features Olafur Eliasson, an artist who describes the sides of nature we never saw in his delicate artworks, presented by Bloomberg and Hyundai Motor.
Demonstrating contemporary art in the nature’s language
Chateau de Versailles in France, where the glory of the Sun King Louis XIV’s era remains, has held a large-scaled yearly solo exhibition of selected contemporary artists around the world since 2008; Olafur Eliasson was chosen for the year 2016. Focusing on the architectural structure of the display space divided into a palace and a garden, Eliasson presented pieces harmonized with the both parts of the palace. He always brought the palace’s floor plan with him to study it anywhere he went during preparation for the exhibition, devoting himself to maximize the effects of the place and his works at the same time. The artist chose two elements for the exhibition: light and water. Inside the extravagant palace with luxurious ornaments were placed artworks representing light, while the enormous garden with dozens of fountains and canals housed works displaying water. In the Hall of Mirrors, allegedly the most glamorous place in Chateau de Versailles was presented <Your Sense of Unity>(2016). With the work consisting of six large loops emitting strong LED light arranged in a circle, the light was endlessly reflected from the mirrors covering the walls and two additional mirrors installed by the artist, creating a mirage-like space. The viewers had a mysterious experience, seeing the light along with the sight of the place and themselves repeated on the mirrors, as if traveling back and forth between the past and present of the palace.
One of the artworks that received most attention is <Waterfall>(2016), placed in the garden. Having showed a similar piece named <The New York City Waterfalls> in 2008 in the middle of New York, Eliasson decorated the garden with an even grader waterfall. The Waterfall fell from the inestimable height straight to the ground. The waterfall the artist created, though artificial, changed its appearance constantly according to the nature elements such as the sunlight or wind strength or direction, showing the vitality of the mother nature demonstrated by water.
In the exhibition receiving worldly attention, using the light and water, the most familiar esthetic language to him, Eliasson maintained the historical, cultural, and artistic meaning of the palace, while creating a supernatural space mixed with contemporary art.
Art for everyone
Nature is the subject matter that can be found from all of Eliasson’s works. Considering art “experiencing other people’s thoughts,” he searched for a subject that everyone could understand and experience beyond the barriers of language and culture. By selecting “the nature” as his subject, which everyone can feel and empathize with, the artist started to make artworks that could be interpreted differently according to one’s experiences. As the nature is always near us, we often cannot recognize every little component of it; Eliasson draws the little things of the nature onto his works and adds an artistic touch. Amplifying natural phenomena with the power of science or creating a supernatural pseudo-nature beyond one’s imitation, his artworks send a clear meaning to the extent that anyone who did not know about the artist can easily comprehend and feel empathy towards the pieces.
The artwork that made him a world-famous artist would be ‘The Weather Project’(2003), displayed at Tate Modern, England, in 2003. Installed at the spacious Turbine Hall, the work was made of about 200 light bulbs and aluminum foil, as if the sun was displaced inside. Though installation art may seem difficult to general public, the viewers were surprisingly harmonized with the artwork, chatting or taking a nap under the artificial sun. Sights of people experiencing and receiving the work as art became the part of the artwork, which was critically acclaimed that it suggested a new point of view of transforming the display space itself into a new artistic area.
Eliasson’s art continues even outside the exhibition space. Performed at places such as Iceland, Tokyo, and Stockholm in 1998, the ‘Green River’ project changed rivers entirely green with environmentally-harmless green dyes secretly released at the upper stream. The cities faced with rivers suddenly turned into green saw fierce controversies and responds, making people rethink about human perception of the nature.
Treating the nature as his subject matter everyone can empathize with based on his correct understanding on scientific technology, Eliasson provides new experiences that we could not ever think of. In order to break the stereotype that art is something profound, and to create artworks that anyone can interpret in their own ways, the artist still continues to explore. ■ with ARTINPOST
<360˚ room for all colours> 2002
Stainless steel, wood, fluorescent lights, colour filter foil(red, green, blue), projection foil, control unit 320cm Ø815cm The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008 Photo: Studio Olafur Eliasson Courtesy of Jarla Partilager, private collection ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
Spotlight, water, nozzles, wood, hose, pump ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark 2004
Photo: Poul Pedersen Courtesy of Jarla Partilager, private collection ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<Colour square sphere> 2007
Chromed brass, colour-effect filter glass, mirror, stainless steel, aluminium Ø125cm Studio Olafur Eliasson, 2007
Photo: Jens Ziehe Courtesy of Jarla Partilager, private collection ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<Din blinde passager> 2010
Fluorescent lights, monofrequenc lights(yellow), fog machine, venilator, wood, aluminium, steel, fabric, foil 3.30×2.70×96m ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, 2010 Photo: Studio Olafur Eliasson Courtesy of Jarla Partilager, private collection ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<Double sunset> 1999
Scaffolding, steel, xenon lamps Ø38cm Utrecht, 2000
Photo: Hans Wilschut Courtesy of Jarla Partilager, private collection ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<Facade for Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre> 2005-2011
Photo: Nic Lehoux Courtesy of Jarla Partilager, private collection ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<Ice Watch> 2014
12 ice blocks City Hall Square, Copenhagen 2014
Photo: Anders Sune Berg ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<Seu planeta compartihado (Your shared planet)> 2011
Stainless steel, aluminium, colour-effect filter glass(cyan, blue, pink, yellow), mirror 195×352×200cm Pinacoteca do Estado, Sao Paulo, 2011
Photo: Olafur Eliasson Courtesy of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection, Vienna ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<The Mediated motion> 2001
Water, wood, compressed soil, fog machine, metal, foil, lemna minor(duckweed) and lentinula edodes(shiitake mushrooms) Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, 2001 Photo: Markus Tretter Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<The Weather project> 2003
Monofrequency lights, projection foil, haze machines, mirror foil, aluminium, scaffolding 26.7×22.3×155.44m Tate Modern, London, 2003
Photo: Olafur Eliasson Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
<Your watercolour horizon> 2009
Stainless steel, steel, wood, rubber, water, glass prism, HMI lamp 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, 2009
Photo: Studio Olafur Courtesy of the artist and Koyanagi Gallery, Tokyo ⓒ Olafur Eliasson
Perception, movement, bodily experience and feeling of self, all these factors led Olafur Eliasson to the art world. And for him, art is the turning point for a new direction. His works-sculpture, painting, photography, film, installation-explore various relationships between art and real world. Therefore Eliasson’s works are installed not only in museums and galleries but also in public spaces and architectural projects.
Born in 1967, Eliasson studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1995, he moved to Berlin and set up Studio Olafur Eliasson which now is operated by 90 staffs; technicians, architects, archivists, art historians, and others. Since 1990, he participated in several exhibitions including exhibitions at the ‘50th Venice Biennale’, Tate modern’s Turbine Hall, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York(MoMA). Recently, he had a large scale solo exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.