United States of America born 1943
[Skyspace] 2010 Creation Notes: preliminary concept 1998; concept revised 2005-06; commissioned 2006-2010
Materials & Technique: sculptures, installation, lighting installation, concrete and basalt stupa, water, earth, landscaping Skyspace: LED lighting system, plaster and painted concrete, granite, marble Support: stupa and exterior: basalt, concrete, stainless steel, bronze, water, earth, landscaping
A Skyspace is a work of art that we enter—and then we stay to look at light, to ponder and to be moved. Contrasts between artificial light within the installation and the changing external atmosphere affect the appearance of the sky. Colours change and seem more painterly. Movement is intensified. The sky shimmers and pulsates and, at times, descends into the space to meet us. By asking the viewer to take the time to notice these subtleties, James Turrell reveals the immensity of the natural world and the sheer beauty of 'divine' architecture. A Skyspace marks the transition between night and day, and the work is at its most dramatic and most complex at dawn and dusk.
The Skyspace at the National Gallery of Australia is a site-specific work, its location chosen by the artist to complement and accord with the Gallery's southern garden. On approach, visitors see a mound surrounded by water. Only a small portion of the structure is visible from outside. Being partially subterranean, the sculpture is established as an integral part of the garden; this also muffles extraneous sound and reduces light pollution. Via a long sloping walkway, the visitor encounters a large square-based pyramid with coloured interior walls. In the middle of this room, a huge basalt stupa rises, highlighted by the turquoise water that surrounds it. Two ramps, set at right angles around the perimeter of the room, converge on a single entrance on the opposite side of the stupa.
Crossing a small bridge, we enter the stupa, the Skyspace proper. We find ourselves within a simple domed space, sparsely furnished with a concrete bench around the edge. The roof is open, the sky framed in an oculus. A moonstone, set into the centre of the floor, echoes the opening above. A bank of lights is located around the base of the dome, discreetly fixed into the wall of the bench. This inner sanctum is austere, even church-like. Within the space, we look up. Even during the day, changing light conditions, shifting weather patterns and variations in the seasons, ensure the experience is always different. We are offered artlessness, simplicity, unhurried perception—perhaps even the chance of epiphany.
Turrell has made a small number of permanent Skyspaces in the United States of America, Europe, Britain, Japan and Israel. To date only two others use the stupa form: Three gems 2005 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and Second wind 2005 2009 at the NMAC Foundation in Cadiz, Spain. Visitors can experience this wonderful work of art, Turrell's new Skyspace under southern skies.
Curator, International Painting and Sculpture
in artonview, issue 62, winter 2010
in artonview, issue 62, winter 2010
The sky is above us, and we take for granted that it will stay there. But James Turrell makes us perceive differently. The contrast between the light within a skyspace and the changing external atmosphere affects the appearance of the sky. It shimmers and pulsates. Colours change and seem more painterly. Movement and sound are intensified. By asking the viewer to take the time to notice these subtleties, Turrell reveals the immensity of the natural world and the sheer beauty of celestial architecture.
Turrell has made many temporary works using light, and a smaller number of permanent installations around the world. He uses a range of LED, tungsten, halogen, fluorescent, ultraviolet and natural light throughout his projections, installations and land art. Skyspaces are a leading motif in his oeuvre. Each retains the same basic structure—a viewing chamber without a roof—but they vary in format, materials and their unique sites.
Within without is a stupa, housed within a square-based pyramid. The structure is set into a grass-covered mound, open to the sky and surrounded by a moat. This monumental installation incorporates earth, water, basalt, granite, marble, stainless steel and bronze, in addition to the usual lighting, and plastered and painted concrete.
We cross a small bridge to enter the stupa, the skyspace proper. This inner sanctum is austere, even church-like. During the day, changing light conditions, shifting weather patterns and variations in the seasons, ensure the experience is always different. Within without is at its most dramatic and complex at dawn and dusk, when a special light cycle marks the transition between night and day. We are offered artlessness, simplicity, unhurried perception—perhaps even the chance of epiphany.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014