Research On Olafur Eliasson’S Art
Olafur Eliasson’s art first caught my eye because of how he made the colors and shapes come together to look so smooth, and the optical illusions in his works. Although I had never heard of him before, I thought it might be interesting to learn about how he gets his inspiration and makes his art. I wanted to learn more about his method and even the thought process behind it.
Born in 1967, Copenhagen, Denmark, Eliasson is a Danish artist that is known for his use of natural elements such as light to create his unique artworks. He dabbles with and is popular in many artistic genres like painting, photography, sculpting, and even film. As a young adult he was interested in breakdancing and formed a group with his friends, and they won the Scandinavian championship when he was 14. Some of his family members were into art as well, his father was an amateur artist and his grandmother was a photographer. Growing up in Denmark and Iceland, he studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen until 1995 when he moved to Berlin. In Berlin he founded the Studio Olafur Eliasson, which now employs about 100 people that cooperate with Eliasson to help produce his artworks and then install them, collaborate with specialists worldwide, and host events to encourage artistic exchange.
Having grown up in a time of political reform in Denmark following the war period, he was most likely very influenced by the changes of the time and the idea of reform to better yourselves and the area. Postwar Denmark worked to get proportional representation for the different political parties and ideals in the area and I believe some of that can be seen in how Eliasson focuses so much on the idea of how we see ourselves and think about the consequences of our actions. Denmark then fell into economic deterioration because of inability to get control in the government or agreement on policies and many years were spent trying to fix the instability that occurred from it. Many of his pieces have the underlying message of taking control of your perspective and whether or not you can change your own view and actions.
Eliasson’s art is very conceptual and focuses a lot on his philosophical beliefs about responsibilities and the consequences of actions. He can be tied to the Social Practice movement which is commonly paired with Activism because it can deal with political issues or questions of the times. Social Practice focuses on engagement through human interaction and social discourse, so it pairs nicely with Activism which is the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. He wants to use his art to bring about a universal conscience that challenges the way we inhabit the world and what we choose to do with ourselves. For example, his Green River series that lasted through 1998 to 2001 involved Eliasson going to various different bodies of water around the world like Tokyo, Stockholm, and Los Angeles, and pouring a bucket of (environmentally-safe) neon green dye into the water. The dye’s color immediately drew attention to the water and the experiment showed one of his main points, that everything you do has an effect, no matter how small or insignificant you might think it is.
One of Eliasson’s most popular artworks, and my personal favorite, is Wirbelwerk, which roughly translates to ‘whirl work’. It hangs in the Lenbachhaus museum in Munich. This piece is about eight meters tall and roughly seven around at the broadest area, hanging from the ceiling at its widest and then closing down to a near point at the end. Strands of stainless steel wrap around from the very top of the base all the way to end, creating a sort of vortex shape, similar to a tornado. Inside the vortex there are many sheets of different colored glass along with mirrors that reflect the lights and colors from around it, creating even more of the hurricane-like image. Wirbelwerk still stands in Munich, and many of his artworks are in museums and exhibitions throughout the world. He has art in the Belvedere Museum, the Chateau de Versailles, and the Langen Foundation. The i8 Gallery has a few of his artworks and you can find pieces on sites such as artsy for around $2,500-$5,000. One of his pieces, Tidal pool star, will be going into auction Friday 21st, 2018, in the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Los Angeles, California.
The type of art that Eliasson makes varies so much so that there are numerous different processes that he uses and even more materials that he needs to create with. He juxtaposes natural elements such as wind, light, and water in his artworks along with regular materials like stainless steel and glass to create unique pieces every time. For his famous Weather Project, he used haze machines to skew the lighting in the room and hundreds of mono-frequency lamps in the shape of a sun to cancel out colors other than yellow and black. He makes many sculptures and big installations, but he also has smaller artworks like paintings or glassworks. Oil is often used for his paintings or mixed with different medias. He also has works that are just photographs or prints of different films and negatives. Some of his pieces are for commission or in collaboration with other artists, but they mostly still come together in some way, shape, or fashion to go along with Eliasson’s central message of self-awareness of your own presence in space and of the things around you.
While researching Eliasson, one of the more interesting things I picked up was the fact that a person’s perspective can be changed so easily if you just take a second to step back and look at a situation differently. He likes to work with illusions and play a trick on the eyes or mind to get across his ideas, and this can be done with something as simple as changing the light or color used for a certain aspect for his art, but also can be done for a person’s mind if they change the way they perceive something.