ArtistJames TURRELL
Material/ Techniquemixed media
Size/ DurationH351×W351×D751cm
Copyright Notice© James TURRELL
Year of acquisition/ donation2005
DescriptionBorn in Los Angeles, USA in 1943. Lives and works in Flagstaff.

James Turrell studied cognitive psychology, mathematics and ar t history and from 1968 to 1971 worked at a NASA research center. Setting up his own studio in 1966, he began to create experimental artwork using light. He is also a pilot, and his experiences of light while flying are strongly reflected in his work. Throughout his artistic career, Turrell has consistently used light as a material as he seeks to stimulate our deepest sensibilities and enquire into the true nature of perception by presenting a range of different spaces where people can experience light.

"Gasworks" is a device that enables viewers to experience light on their own in isolated conditions. Viewers are sent into a sphere through a small opening in the side lying on a bed on rails. The inside of the sphere has no joints, so the viewer has no clues as to the make-up of the space in terms of shapes, shadows, distance, and so on. In effect they are subjected to a version of the Ganzfeld effect in which their field of vision is completely undifferentiated and uniform. The viewer is then totally enveloped in light that floods up from strobes and neon tubes hidden in the lower part of the sphere, the intensity and colors changing in accordance with an intricate computer program. "Blue Planet Sky" is a work that appeals to humans’ sensory experiences by capturing passing light. When viewers enter the cubic space and sit on the benches around the perimeter, their gaze is directed upwards to a square opening in the middle of the square ceiling through which they can see the sky. Because the edges of the opening are sharp, the surface of the ceiling and the block of sky visible through the opening appear to be on the same plane. Here, visitors are encouraged to experience constantly changing light in the form of the sky from morning till night. The lights in the space are switched on from dusk onwards, heightening the dramatic effect of the gradually changing light in the sky. Through these works, Turrell is asking his audience, “How do you sense light?” and giving new perception to their physical senses.