The huge experience of James Turrell’s Skyspace in tiny Järna

Had I been asked some two weeks ago where Järna is – I wouldn’t have had a clue. When I heard that the exhibition SEE! COLOUR! including new works by James Turrell was opening just outside of it in Ytterjärna, I decided to travel to this tiny place that is known for being the Swedish centre of the anthroposophical movement, situated south-west of Stockholm. Especially learning that there was the first Scandinavian and most northern Skyspace to be opened on the weekend made the two-hour train and bus rides to get there more enjoyable.

 

James Turrell - Skyspace Outside Insight. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

 

After the opening speeches and performances, I make my way out to the Skyspace, named “Outside Insight”. Trekking through organic architecture, gardens and vernally blossomed forests, I reach its round wooden construction that is placed on a hill. I enter the small room with benches framing its white walls and an anthracite marble floor. The dome-shaped roof marks a round hole through which visitors can observe the sky. When looking up, the blue sky so well known to us looks different and appears much closer than usual. It feels almost possible to touch and makes me aware of the ocean of air we’re situated in. During the day, the sky resembles a changing picture with clouds passing and the odd bird flying over the hole. During the night, the focus is shifted towards the inside of the Skyspace, where lighting elements change the colour of the space and thereby also influence our perception of the sky. Just like the effect of simultaneous contrast – describing the way colours of different objects placed next to one another influence each other, identified by French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul – the perceived colour of the sky changes according to the hue of the frame surrounding it.
 

Simultaneous Contrast

 

Due to our knowledge of what white is supposed to look like – a certain prejudice in our perception – our eyes make white out of the different coloured lights projected onto the walls of the Skyspace after a while, thus rendering the colour of the sky according to the contrast set by the supposedly white frame. The sky appears as shape, object, or even void, sometimes building a convex globe-like form entering the Skyspace, sometimes a glass placed above it, or a moving image. The inside of the sitting area seems to move and I enjoy the slight dizziness when looking up, but also when observing the image of the sky mirrored on the shiny marble floor.
 

James Turrell - Skyspace Outside Insight. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

James Turrell - Skyspace Outside Insight. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

James Turrell - Skyspace Outside Insight. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

James Turrell - Skyspace Outside Insight. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

James Turrell - Skyspace Outside Insight. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

James Turrell - Skyspace Outside Insight. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

 

In his speech during the opening of the exhibition, James Turrell explains that he wants to capture the light we see with our eyes closed and during the transitionary times of twilight at sunset and sunrise. He says that he is influenced by Claude Monet, who focussed mainly on the light and colour of the landscapes he painted; and by Mark Rothko, in whose paintings the colours seem to be the source of light, emanating from the surface of the canvas. In Turrell’s installations, light becomes something we experience physically, it fills the space like an object would do and can feel warm or cold, possible to touch, breathe in or push away. In that sense, the visitor is necessary for Turrell’s work, because he or she completes the experience. The viewers’ sensations vary between individuals, but they also change during daytime and nighttime. Clouds seem to move faster when seen from within the Skyspace than from the outside, whereas at nighttime the movement of the sky is slowed down. The effects also change during summer and winter, with Swedish seasons diverging immensely between long and bright summer days during which the sun almost doesn’t go down, and short, dark winter days. With many Skyspaces in all kinds of different locations all over the world, the experience between the geographically diverse places also varies depending on each specific sky above.
 

Järna landscape. Photo by Stefanie Hessler

 

It is quite remarkable how the tiny locality of Järna has managed to make this show come into being. The immense team spirit and will of producing this show, including not only James Turrell, convincing him to do new work and travel out there several times, but also showing works by Hilma af Klint, Rudolf Steiner and the colour theory of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, can be felt upon visiting this remote location. After the visit to this small world of its own, and the site of James Turrell’s Skyspace and other works, the experience of my surroundings is intensified and I see the sky and lights differently and perceive them more consciously than before.

 

- by Stefanie Hessler

 

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Visit James Turrell’s Skyspace at SEE! COLOUR! from 15 May – 2 October 2011, open every day from 10 am – 6 pm. More information at: http://www.seecolour.se/en/

 

SEE! COLOUR! Photo by Stefanie Hessler

SEE! COLOUR! Photo by Stefanie Hessler

  • 3 Responses to “The huge experience of James Turrell’s Skyspace in tiny Järna”
  1. Such a great experience! You should all know where Järna is and enjoy this excellent exhibition SEE COLOUR.

  2. The Järna skyspace has been name “Outside Insight” – by James Turrell

  3. Thanks, Rembert!

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