Eliasson recreates Icelandic nature in London’s Tate Modern.
With light, mist and rain, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson brings nature into the Tate Modern for a new London exhibition that appeals to visitors’ senses while, at points, disorientating them. About 40 works of art dating back over three decades are on display inside and outside the Thames-side gallery of contemporary art, including an extraordinary 11-metre high waterfall.
Eliasson won acclaim here in 2003 when he filled the Tate’s vast Turbine Hall with a giant blazing sun for “The Weather Project”, an installation that drew more than two million visitors.
In December, the 52-year-old left 24 blocks of glacier ice to melt outside to raise awareness of the impact of global warming. This latest exhibition, “In Real Life”, explores the Berlin-based artist’s favourite themes, including nature, geometry and the nature of perception.
Before even entering the exhibition, visitors are dazzled by three rows of yellow neon lights. The installation uses mono-frequency lights -- which suppress all colours -- “to transform your perception of space”, said curator Mark Godfrey.
“The colour in your clothes seems to drain away and the colour in your face seems to drain away when you’re under those lights.”
He said: “It is a real waterfall with real water but it’s also obviously a construction and there is this notion is not outside of our creation.”
The sculpture is a continuation of his Waterfall series, which has been displayed in Sydney, New York, Sao Paulo and Versailles, and Eliasson said it encourages the viewer to reflect on their understanding and perception of the physical world around them.
He added: “I exercise the view that if people see the scaffold they go, ‘Oh, that’s a scaffold’ and it takes a nanosecond and then they look at the waterfall and it’s funny how making the scaffold visible, in a sense they don’t see it."
“If I were to have made a big mountain, they would go ‘How did he do that?’ all the time (focusing) on the scaffold."
“But it’s a deconstruction exercise that allows people to be co-producer of the narrative and suggest that nature is relative and reality is relative.”
Visitors are seen through a screen in art installation titled "Room for one colour" by Icelandic/Danish artist Olafur Eliasson during a press-preview.
A giant kaleidoscopic sculpture “Your Spiral View”, through which visitors can walk as if in a tunnel, is aimed at encouraging them to perceive things from a different viewpoint.
But the experience that is most disconcerting, even frightening, is a long corridor filled with thick mist in which the visitor loses their bearings, unable to see further than a couple of metres.
The exhibition Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life marks a return to the gallery for the artist following his The Weather Project in 2003, which attracted more than two million visitors.
It includes seven new works as well as pieces created over the last three decades to form the most comprehensive solo presentation of his career so far.
This includes sculptures which reference the changing environment, including a bronze rectangular structure formed by casting a block of glacial ice to show the empty space left after the ice has melted.
It follows his Ice Watch project, which saw huge ice blocks transported to London and left to melt to show the effects of climate change.
Eliasson said: “We had cast one of the ice blocks that came from that project, we took a negative cast of it and so the void in that black box, what I call The Presence of Absence, you can see the space where the ice block actually was. You can stand inside and become the ice.”
The exhibition also includes Moss Wall, a 20-metre wide wall covered entirely with Scandinavian reindeer moss, and Beauty, which conjures a rainbow inside the exhibition, as well as Din blindepassager (Your blind passenger), which offers the chance to walk through a 39-metre corridor of dense fog.
Also featured is a series of photographs of Iceland’s glaciers taken by Eliasson in 1999, which will be replaced in the autumn by a new artwork that incorporates the old photos alongside recent ones, showing the changes in the landscape that have taken place over the 20-year gap.
Other works illustrate the impact humans have on nature, including a series of photographs taken by the artist of Iceland’s glaciers in 1999. They will be replaced in the autumn with a new collection incorporating pictures taken 20 years on, revealing how much they have changed. Nature is omnipresent in the exhibition, from a huge wall covered in moss to a rainbow formed as if by magic in a dark room where a soft rain falls.
“Olafur spent a lot of time as (a) child in Iceland and the environment, the landscape, have affected him greatly,” said Godfrey.
“He was always interested in the idea of bringing the landscape into the gallery.”
Walking through the exhibits, “you become more aware of yourself, become more aware of your sense of sight, your sense of smell, your sense of touch”.
Some installations give the sense that the visitor is “co-producing the work”, he added.
In one room, visitors walk in front of projectors, watching their different coloured shadows dance on the wall in front of them. The final part, dubbed “The Expanded Studio”, addresses Eliasson’s social and environmental concerns, including an artistic workshop he conducted with asylum-seekers and refugees. The exhibition opens on Thursday and runs until January 5, 2020.