Contributor: Maira Herrero,
My first encounter with the fascinating world of 47-year-old Copenhagen-born Ólafur Elíasson was over a decade ago, in October 2003 in London’s Tate Modern. I found myself before an incredible installation that took up the entire entrance of the museum (Turbine Hall). I was greatly taken aback: light, colour and sound enveloped me so intensely that I actually thought I was seeing a real twilight sun in front of me. Reality and fiction started merging in my head, flinging me and the other visitors in the hall into a whole new dimension of perception. I have been following the artist consistently since then, an artist I consider to be one of the most established in the contemporary international art scene. His artwork, via sensory, imaginative and technical means, offers viewers a range of possibilities for its interpretation.
On February 21, Ólafur Elíasson presented his second exhibition, Your Successful Uncertainty, at the Elvira González Gallery in Madrid, the curious title once again representing a nod to the visitor, and a subtle reminder that interaction is a key element of his art. This is not the first time Elíasson starts his artwork titles with the possessive pronoun: Your Uncertain Shadow, Your Blind Movement…
This exhibition is part of Alejandra de Argos’ selection of the Top 10 Exhibitions in Madrid.
The works included in this exhibition are formally very different from one another, yet they all relate to this relationship which is always present in Elíasson’s work: nature as a creative force, and science through method, as answers to life’s endless questions. Elíasson is an explorer in the true sense of the word: he explores and searches through contact with the natural world, which he then represents in his images, such as the ones included in this exhibition (The Hot Spring Series); he picks up pieces of wood on his long walks, transforming them into artworks full of aesthetic and technical meaning (Access Compass); he experiments with everyday materials, such as a decomposing mirror attached by a magnet to a meteorite found in New Mexico; or he reminds us of the importance of water on our planet through an inverted cataract (Waterfall Machine). His works always relate to space as a reflection of movement, light, weather, the experience of life, etc. For Elíasson, the simple act of walking creates space and time (Leer es respirar, es devenir. Escritos de Ólafur Elíasson. GG, Barcelona 2012).
To understand this artist is to understand the reality of our contemporary world. He works with nature to try to unravel its mysteries — he has set up an experimental laboratory in his Berlin studio, where a team of architects, scientists, artisans and art historians help him to execute his ideas, transforming them into the finished pieces that we see in museums and galleries. He is always on the lookout for new ways of merging science and nature, equally interested in both the technical and physical aspects of art, the organic and inorganic. We could say his work can be synthesized as a constant search for the artistic representation of life’s natural phenomena.
His commitment to art extends to education too — Elíasson is also a professor at The Berlin University of Arts. In 2009 he created the Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments), and since then he has been responsible for providing students with his own brand of innovative art education. His comprehensive training approach has led him to take trips with his students in order for them to better understand their relationship with their surroundings. Out of this approach came the Little Sun lamp, a small solar-powered light source that has allowed him to bring light to those remote places of the world that are not connected to the power grid.
When taken as a whole, Ólafur Elíasson’s work is once again a reminder that there can be no meaning in a world without art.