“A Turrell Skyspace is a specifically proportioned chamber with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky. Skyspaces can be autonomous structures or integrated into existing architecture. The aperture can be round, ovular or square.” James Turrell
James Turrell is one of the iconic figures of contemporary art, making work that is light based, often turning 2D projection in to 3D reality. Skyspaces combine natural and artificial light to create a spiritual and emotional location for contemplative observation.
Hugely respected but largely unknown by the public, he recently found increased fame following a video by Drake, a Canadian rapper. Hotline Bling features him dancing in luminous rooms with Turrell-style ganzfeld effects. Turrell responded “While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake fucks with me, I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved in any way in the making of the Hotline Bling video.”
Turrell has placed his artistic heart at an Arizona volcanic feature – the Roden Crater. Spotted while flying his light plane he subsequently purchased the land and has so far spent forty years creating a huge, cosmic observatory, shaping chambers and tunnels to play with the light of the sun, moon and stars.
A recent visit to Lech in the Austrian Alps provided an opportunity to take a look at one of his latest Skyspace projects. We recently reviewed his spectacular exhibition at Houghton Hall near Norwich (see review here) and commented upon the seemingly unlikely nature of the co-operation between historic British mansion and Turrell’s conceptual light-based art.
The project is actually a new commission derived from a failed attempt to retain Anthony Gormley’s Horizon Field permanently in Lech after its scheduled end in 2012. The organisation that had been formed, The Horizon Field Association (www.horizonfield.com), remained in place with the revised aim of bringing new art to the region and has proposed the Turrell Skyspace in consequence.
Once again there is an unlikely home for this latest collaborative venture. The Allmeinde Commongrounds (www.allmeinde.org) is a hard to find building on a side road of a Lech suburb, and it is here that an exhibition detailing the project as well as exhibiting some of James Turrell’s work is taking place. A beautiful new Austrian style conversion has been developed both as a concept and a building with a meeting space for art dialogue, a contemporary art & architectural biased library and exhibition space.
The first floor features a series of woodblock and aquatint prints of his well known ellipses. “I love the ellipse,” says Turrell. “Planets orbits are elliptical. It’s a very pleasing shape.”
There are also one of his hologram series, editions of Roden crater maps and images plus bronze and plaster sculptures of one of his earlier Skyspaces. A film (sadly in German only) plays in a screening room downstairs. All moderately interesting, but the real interest lay in the plans for the potential Skyspace laid out in a ground floor room.
The location is hoped to be up at 1800 metres altitude close to local ski pistes and walking trails. An underground tunnel will lead to a room with an elliptical (again) opening to the sky. Many planning and practical issues have been overcome and construction is planned for 2017. Let us hope that the funding manages to reach its target and we hope to report from Lech in less than two years time!
James Turrell, The Skyspace Lech Project can be seen at Allmeine Commongrounds until 2 April 2016