All Articles
All Articles

See! Colour!

Artist James Turrell's mind-bending experience of light, sound and space in Järna, Sweden

by Richard Prime
on 19 May 2011

The average human takes many things for granted, but in the eyes of American artist James Turrell the light and color around us is top of the list. For the past 30 years the pioneering artist has been creating breathtaking installations based around the simplistically multifaceted mediums of light, color and space. In fact, Turrell can lay claim to owning the world's largest piece of art, the Roden Crater, which affords the viewer access to celestial phenomena at a location just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.

While the crater is still very much a work in progress, a new exhibition entitled "See! Colour!" just opened in the unlikely location of Järna, a small commune just outside Stockholm which has played a huge part in the Swedish anthroposophical movement over the years.

The show features a host of Turrell's site-specific installations—all of which are programmed according to their locations in the world and proximity to the atmosphere, light and climate. Each of the five works is undeniable proof not only of Turrell's artistic acumen but of the potential of color and light to inform and baffle the mind.

JT-Ganzfeld-3.jpg JT-Ganzfeld4.jpg

"Ganzfeld", treats the viewer to an enormous room which cycles between the red and blue portions of the color spectrum (according to Turrell's technician these color groups are chosen for their ability to overload the retina quickly). It takes seconds for the dimensions of the space to vanish while the mind attempts to locate corners, walls and angles, an effect that's both disconcerting and exhilarating at the same time.

From Ganzfeld, a short walk leads visitors to the gentle hues of Wedgewood, which acts like a tranquilizer to the overloaded brain, structuring the exhibition cleverly with its change of pace.

JT-Skyspace5.jpg JT-skylight6.jpg

Many of the works at Järna are not only site but time specific. Skyspace, a work which perhaps epitomizes Turrell's work, is best viewed a short time before the sun rises and sets. Inside a tall cylindrical room with a skylight-like hole cut into the center of the roof a series of lights are aligned in the direction of the natural light pouring in. The result is a disorientating change of color in the natural light, and a slice of the atmosphere which seems almost tangible. "Light is all around us, it's what feeds out bodies, while we describe emotions, art and life through the language of light and color," explains Turrell.

Discussing what many consider to be his most powerful piece, Bindu Shards, Turrell told us that, thanks to his time as a pilot, "My work has always been informed with an exploration of a landscape without horizons, like a whiteout, the rapture of the deep. I try to create a horizon-less, gravity-less space."


Bindu Shards is a 4.2-meter sphere in which the viewer is inserted, lying on their back, wearing headphones and carrying a panic button. Choosing from hard or soft, they are taken on an indescribable 15 minute journey that is likely to linger in the mind for weeks following.

A small sign plays in the headphones as a veritable light show plays out, triggering what Turrell calls "Behind the Eye Seeing," in which you feel as if your entire field of vision is extended through to 360 degrees. Color, light and the audible sign take the mind to a place where breaks of solid color create the sensation of flying and physical release. The fact that you are enclosed, alone in the sphere also allows you to actually feel the different temperatures from the wavelengths of each respective color.

While there is a large number of installations on site at Järna, this is seemingly only a small slice of the potential color holds, and with every passing technological advancement, Turrell's pieces are destined to become even more moving and pioneering.

"See! Colour!" is a stirring odyssey of color and light which has to be seen to be truly believed. The exhibition is open through 4 October 2011. All images by Florian Holzherr, see more in the gallery.

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity
Loading More...