Abstract – Olafur Eliasson

I watched the artist Olafur Eliasson on a Netflix series called ‘Abstract – The art of design’. I found the episode on the ‘Design of art’ that he was featured in very interesting and awakening. He is known for making experiences in his art, and he interacts beautifully with his environment. From this documentary I learned that Eliasson was born in Iceland, whose father was also a painter, an artist like he grew up to be. To him, the way he sees the world is how we experience it. Eliasson operates on a global scale, having galleries and workshops all over the world. His work is completely dependent on the spectator.

These are some of his famous outdoor spectacles that were mentioned in the episode.

He created the rainbow in 1993, he wanted to this spectacle to be dependent on the eye, the person. His object was to create something that was different for every participant, so the angle is very important. Other people can’t see your rainbow, which I thought was a lovely notion.

The other image is from his Brooklyn bridge work, in 2008 he made a waterfall under the bridge. These types of outdoor pieces of art are not about nature per-say but about the people watching it, because without them there would be no spectacle to look at.

Why does he make what he makes?

He answered this question in this episode. Growing up in Iceland, he was use to mist, ice and water. These elements came naturally to him, so therefore lot of his work revolves round nature or he refers to them in some way. He stated that nature became a way for him to create a language everyone can relate to.

Olafar then talked about how ideas work for him and how he takes an idea and turns it into art. He started of thinking where do ideas come from?, then moved onto how do I verbalise them? and then how do I take this idea and make it into a reality, into a model. He iterated ‘why’, Eliasson stated that ‘What drives every decision is not how but WHY. I thought this to be very enlightening.

One of his best known works was the ‘Yellow Room’, this light takes away all colour from the room. This meant that as participants in the room we see less with the more colour that has been taken away. He used this light again in 2003 during the ‘Weather project’. His question to himself was ‘how can I make the air visible’, he used fog for this effect. Once again, every persons experience was different during this showcase. Some thought the experience was apocalyptic and gloomy, while others thought it was spiritual and felt like a relaxing time. The yellow monochromatic light aided these views.

Abstract work

Olafar then talks about his abstract experience, he wanted to make abstract tangible. He wanted to hand over the responsibility to the participants and he done this by using light, sound and shadows. Like all of his work everyone saw different things when they walked into this space. In doing this, it empowered the audience. Eliasson said that this gives the viewer a sense of ‘I am good enough’ because they were able to co-produce the narrative.

He talked about how he felt that abstract is the imagination and its not about creating something intricate but its about the fantasy behind what an abstract piece of art can be.

Current work

Eliasson is now involved with politics and works with advocacy projects in order to try and change the world. He started a project called ‘The Ice Watch’ in 2014. He placed a circle of glaciers in a town and lets them melt in order to show climate change. This evoked behavioural change because you know it’s going to disappear.

He also created the ‘Light Project’. He designed a solar panel powered light that enables families who can’t afford lighting to never have to sit in darkness. This is the perfect example of how to turn thinking into doing.

This episode ended in a very interesting way, the artist asked the viewers ‘what is in this for you’, ‘why are you watching this episode?”. This had me question myself. Why was I watching this? I came to the answer of that I wanted to learn more about abstract art. I got more than I expected to out of this documentary. I learned that it is important that we don’t take our surroundings for granted. He finished with showing different daylights around the world, symbolising daylight varies everywhere. Everyones perception is different and that reflects abstract art, people portray abstract art in so many different ways but that’s what makes it so beautifully intriguing.



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