James Turrell, born in 1943, is an American artist with a background in Engineering, Psychology, Atronomy, Mathematics, and Geology, but his work mainly concerns the nature of "light." He works to be an artist of light; to make things with it.
"I haven't had anything to do with either sculpture or painting," Turrell said in an interview with PBS. "I have done works that look painted or works that have form and look like sculpture. I make these spaces that apprehend light for your perception.
In a way, it's like Plato's cave, where we are sitting in the cave looking at the reflection of reality with our backs to reality. I make these spaces where the spaces themselves are perceivers or in some way pre-form perception. It's a little bit like what the eye does. I mean, I look at the eye as the most exposed part of the brain, as something that is already forming perception. I make these rooms that are these camera-like spaces that in some way form light, apprehend it to be something that's physically present" (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/egg/215/turrell/interview_content_1.html
Turrell works to make more perceivable what is around us all the time. Light is part of reality. It's embedded in our consciousness and one of the basic ways we explore the world. It's even often the first thing created in the mythology for many religions. We use it as a tool, yet it is often unappreciated for what it is. Turrell further explores this concept in the interview:
"I'm interested in having a light that inhabits space, so that you feel light to be physically present. I mean, light is a substance that is, in fact, a thing, but we don't attribute thing-ness to it. We use light to illuminate other things, something we read, sculpture, paintings. And it gladly does this.
But the most interesting thing to find is that light is aware that we are looking at it, so that it behaves differently when we are watching it and when we're not, which imbues it with consciousness. Often people say that they want to touch some of the work I do. Well, that feeling is actually coming from the fact that the eyes are touching, the eyes are feeling. And this happens because the eyes are quite sensitive only in low light, for which we were made.
We're actually made for this light of Plato's cave, the light of twilight. "
Light does have thing-ness. It fills the air with energy and alters our perception. We use it in video games, with the light projecting images for our minds to pick up and react to. light travels off of and around matter, yet it can be contained by people like Turrell to display as art. It's not solid, but can be perceived as such because of it's thing-ness.
We feel light with our eyes and with our minds, just like Bubsy the Bobcat. He exists only in fiction, yet we make him real with the power of light. It's a powerful force indeed.
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All photos by Florian Holzherr, from JamesTurrell.com.
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