TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC; Artist James Turrell Guides Sue Steward around His Latest Interactive Exhibition, All about Light, Space, Perception -- and the Psychedelic Experience

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 14, 2010 | Go to article overview

TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC; Artist James Turrell Guides Sue Steward around His Latest Interactive Exhibition, All about Light, Space, Perception -- and the Psychedelic Experience


Byline: Sue Steward

JAMES Turrell is one of the art world's originals. A Californian who now lives on a ranch in the Arizona desert, for his latest London exhibition he has brought a collection of installations involving the electromagnetic radiation we call light. The main attraction will almost certainly be his Perceptual Cell Series, a construction resembling a Second World War landmine, in which lone participants are bombarded with light particles and sound waves.

When I arrive at the Gagosian Gallery to meet the legendary "light artist", his team are still constructing rooms within rooms, light-works, and programmes for the sensory perception machine. It feels more like a science institution than a gallery. Turrell is sitting facing a pastel-lit "window" radiating an alluring glow of pinkish, diffused light. He calls it The Tall Glass Window exuding "knowing light".

He's a tall man of 67, with a bushy white beard and gentle eyes and wearing a suit, but I had expected to see him in the lumberjack shirt and cowboy hat he prefers to be photographed in, maybe with a banjo on his knee. As our conversation shifts from the light effects created in meditation to mystical reactions to his work, I realise that he would be more appropriately pictured in a psychedelic setting, on the cover of a Pink Floyd album, say.

Turrell came to wider attention in London when he created a walk-in light sculpture for the Millennium Dome's chill-out zone and he has installed several "Skyspace" viewing structures in the UK, including in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, and at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which have apertures cut into the roof.

The installations in the new show, Turrell's first appearance in London since Louise Blouin commissioned him to create a piece for her Foundation in 2006, are also interactive creations that challenge the sense of perception.

Raised in California, Turrell was drawn to light from childhood and on graduating (in art, perceptual psychology and maths), he co-founded the pioneering light and space movement.

"I never painted," he says, "light was always my medium." Recent developments have been architectural projects to house his light experiments around the world, but his hub is the Roden Crater, a dead volcano crater in the Arizona desert where he lives, which he has been transforming over the past 30 years, carving tunnels and creating chambers, ultimately to create a monumental "naked eye observatory".

It's not easy to explain Turrell's work, but he stresses that there's no need to understand the science of light or percep-tion; the point is to be open to the potentially transformative experiences. There's nothing to touch or smell; the light is as nebulous as sea-mist or smoke.

"We all use light to illuminate things," he says, "but I like the 'thing-ness' of light itself. So, here you're actually looking at light rather than looking at something that light illuminated." This lifelong obsession with light and space, he tells me as we walk around the galleries, was inspired by his father's career as an aeronautical engineer, and his mother's Quaker lifestyle. The aeronautical theme makes sense of someone working with infinite space, but less obvious is the Quaker link until he explains: "My grandmother used to tell me that at Quaker meetings, you go inside -- behind the eye -- 'to greet the light'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC; Artist James Turrell Guides Sue Steward around His Latest Interactive Exhibition, All about Light, Space, Perception -- and the Psychedelic Experience
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.