With light, mist and rain, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson brings nature into the Tate Modern for a new London exhibition that appeals to visitors’ senses while, at points, disorientating them.
About 40 works of art dating back over three decades are on display inside and outside the Thames-side gallery of contemporary art, including an extraordinary 11-metre high waterfall.
Eliasson won acclaim here in 2003 when he filled the Tate’s vast Turbine Hall with a giant blazing sun for “The Weather Project”, an installation that drew more than two million visitors.
In December, the 52-year-old left 24 blocks of glacier ice to melt outside to raise awareness of the impact of global warming.
This latest exhibition, “In Real Life”, explores the Berlin-based artist’s favourite themes, including nature, geometry and the nature of perception.
Before even entering the exhibition, visitors are dazzled by three rows of yellow neon lights.
The installation uses mono-frequency lights — which suppress all colours — “to transform your perception of space”, said curator Mark Godfrey.
“The colour in your clothes seems to drain away and the colour in your face seems to drain away when you’re under those lights.”
Rainbow and waterfall
A giant kaleidoscopic sculpture “Your Spiral View”, through which visitors can walk as if in a tunnel, is aimed at encouraging them to perceive things from a different viewpoint.
But the experience that is most disconcerting, even frightening, is a long corridor filled with thick mist in which the visitor loses their bearings, unable to see further than a couple of metres.
Other works illustrate the impact humans have on nature, including a series of photographs taken by the artist of Iceland’s glaciers in 1999.
They will be replaced in the autumn with a new collection incorporating pictures taken 20 years on, revealing how much they have changed.
Nature is omnipresent in the exhibition, from a huge wall covered in moss to a rainbow formed as if by magic in a dark room where a soft rain falls.
“Olafur spent a lot of time as (a) child in Iceland and the environment, the landscape, have affected him greatly,” said Godfrey.
“He was always interested in the idea of bringing the landscape into the gallery.”
Walking through the exhibits, “you become more aware of yourself, become more aware of your sense of sight, your sense of smell, your sense of touch”.
Some installations give the sense that the visitor is “co-producing the work”, he added.
In one room, visitors walk in front of projectors, watching their different coloured shadows dance on the wall in front of them.
The final part, dubbed “The Expanded Studio”, addresses Eliasson’s social and environmental concerns, including an artistic workshop he conducted with asylum-seekers and refugees.
The exhibition opens on Thursday and runs until January 5, 2020.