Olfar Eliasson: In Real Life - a dazzling exhibition you shouldn't miss
I admit it’s definitely a case of better late than never. But although it’s taken me a while to get round to seeing In Real Life, the extravaganza retrospective of the wildly innovative Danish-Icelandic artist Olfar Eliasson, the exhibition is on at the Tate Modern until January 2020, so you still have plenty of time to follow in my enthralled footsteps.
Eliasson - who was responsible for the glowing sun installation that attracted 2 million visitors to the Tate’s Turbine Hall in 2003 - has always been influenced by the elements and nature, and this collection of over 40 of his, often huge scale, works, spanning three decades - all but one of which have never been seen in the UK before - invites visitors to not merely look passively at the installations, but to immerse themselves in, and interact with, them.
There is so much to wonder at, experience and be amazed by as you explore the often mind-bending installations it’s almost unseemly to pick out any highlights. Each one is intriguing, mesmerising, seductive and though-provoking in its own way.
Installations to marvel at
There’s the vast Moss Wall, a floor-to-ceiling wall of Icelandic reindeer moss which, when it’s watered, changes colour, expands and starts to smell of woodland.
Model Room is a gloriously chaotic collection of around 450 models, prototypes and geometric studies of various sizes which served as a reference library for the artist and his team and now form a fascinating display that invites and rewards detailed inspection.
Beauty is a black room with a central fountain of drizzling water that is fleetingly illuminated causing a rainbow - which looks different to every visitor because of where they are standing in relation to the light - to appear in the cascading drops. It’s utterly spell binding.
Playful and captivating, The Uncertain Shadow is probably the most recognisable of the installations on account of being used as the image to promote the show. The seemingly empty white room is filled with multiple rainbow coloured shadows that visitors cast by moving around inside it.
Your Spiral View, with its tunnel of myriad mirrored surfaces, is like walking through a huge kaleidoscope. Whilst Your Blind Passenger envelopes visitors in a 40 metre long tunnel of thick fog, lit by changing colour light, which renders you unable to see more than a few inches, sorry, centimetres, in front of you. It’s disorienting and beautiful in equal measure.
I could go on (and on) but hopefully that has given you enough of a taster that you’ll want to see the exhibition for yourself, which I really do recommend you to.
It ends in a recreated studio space that showcases Eliasson’s wider interests and activities, which include the creation of a solar powered, hand-held light in the shape of a flower. The lights are sold around the world (including in the Tate shop) and all the proceeds go towards sending lamps to places where there’s no access to energy. So far 830,000 lights have been distributed to communities giving them free, reliable sources of light.
And as a final flourish there’s a table full of coloured Zometool sticks and connectors which visitors are invited to collaborate with each other to build and rebuild structures and shapes .
Eilasson says he hopes visitors to In Real Life won’t feel as if they’ve “stepped out of the real world and into some kind of dream machine, but rather that they’re seeing reality in higher definition.” I’d say experiencing the wonders of his creations is like doing both.
Have you seen any exhibitions recently that you’d recommend?
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