Breathing Light – James Turrell


“” Inside the piece of art Breathing Light (Turrell, 2013) (Fig.5) the audience is accompanied by a docent, also known as a person who acts as a guide, “while the viewers experience this sensory loss or disconnect, the docent silently stands aside, observing their responses to the artwork” (Shin, 2016, p368) by needing a guide to experience the artwork shows that the artwork will render you into a certain point is disorientation that you will need to be accompanied, or at the least observed. There also then is the idea of a silent person watching you, being observed in the intimate scenario is another idea of uncomfortable, in a similar way in which Bruce Nauman makes the audience feel uncomfortable in the duration of his small space.  

    A major comparison between Nauman and Turrell’s work is the scale of the pieces, Nauman encourages a feeling of discomfort by using the idea of a small enclosed space and overwhelming use of colour to make a viewer feel uncomfortable. However, in the works by Turrell, it is the opposite scenario that encourages the same feeling, the overwhelming sense of the scale of Turrell’s work encourages the same feeling of discomfort. The main noticeable difference between Green Light Corridor (Nauman, 1970) (Fig. 4) and Turrell’s piece Breathing Light (Turrell, 2013) (Fig. 5) is the use of colour. Nauman uses the colour green exclusively to evoke a feeling of discomfort, whereas Turrell uses pink, and doesn’t exclusively give reason into the use of a specific colour. In the writings of Coghlan there is mention of the piece in regard to using more than one colour: “the use of changing colours will act as an emotional directive for the audience as colours, like sounds, are associative (e.g. the colour white alluding to purity or innocence)” (Coghlan, 2011). The use of multiple colours within the artwork is one of the main factors that would set Turrell aside from Nauman, this is because the artist instead of using a specific colour to encourage a lack of comfort, use a variety of colours, in overwhelming quantities to evoke a similar feeling of discomfort.

    In the ways that the work from Turrell and Nauman are opposing the works from Eliasson and Turrell are similar, in the case of site-specific work. Both artists create site-specific work, both while remaining heavily influenced by colour. Eliasson uses the main rivers in many cities to create his works and to evoke a reaction from the locals, while Turrell dedicated his study into developing the Roden Crater Project. The project from Turrell involves site-specific work influenced by the site he owns, yet his original concept was inspired by his reaction to another location, Old Sarum. Similarly, Eliasson was influenced by the works of scientists from their own locations. “” Extract from Dissertation

The ideas of Turrell reflect in a small way to the works that I have been making. The idea of Turrell being inspred by certain locations and then basing a practice on how the ideas gained from this experience links in to the ideas of using my location sketches in the remainder of my practice. I also feel like I have visited some of the areas that James Turrell has been inspired by, for example I have made works inspired by Old Sarum, where Turrell has been inspired to start the works of his projects on.


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