About the work

OLAFUR ELIASSON

ABOUT THE WORK


 

OLAFUR ELIASSON

 

The Carthographic Series, 2001-07
Photogravure
100 parts, each 49 x 49 cm 

In this work Eliasson stages the juxtaposition between abstract patterns and realistic depictions. Depending on how closely we look at the picture grid it can remain an abstract pattern of different structures or, upon closer scrutiny, a series of meticulous representations of the Icelandic landscape.

Thus we become aware that looking at the work, we decide what it is about. The photographs then are a combination of realism and abstraction. At first glance they are an abstract pattern of different structures but they turn out to be so realistic as to be used for scientific mapping.

SCIENTIFIC RECORDING
The 100 aerial photographs are matter-of-fact, objective representations of nature, originally intended for maps of Iceland. Eliasson did not photograph the landscape himself but acquired the many aerial photographs from other people's surveys.

Eliasson's photographs of Iceland take their place in a long Nordic tradition of depicting landscape, but unlike the tradition he is not really interested in various romantic associations. He recognises a romanticism of nature, but first and foremost his photographs are concerned with accurately portraying what is seen.

The systematic hanging de-emphasises the statement and specific subject of the individual pictures in favour of the almost scientific whole. Eliasson's presentation of his serial pictures in a tightly composed grid encourages comparisons and intense studies of the individual photos, making us aware of the difference between, and the combination of human and geological time.

Olafur Eliasson's work in general
Eliasson's art possesses the nature of inquiries founded on thorough research in a scientific tradition. This affords certain similarities with conceptual art which also emphasised the exploratory and analytical aspects of art. In addition his works reveal a fascination with art's aesthetic aspects so that each work typically manifests a balance between the beautiful, nature romanticism, and scientific inquiry.

The works and what they generate: light, air, wind, etc., are artificial, but they feel and appear real. A game with two terms that we often perceive as antithetical.

NATURE AS CULTURE
Eliasson emphasises and intensifies the sensuous experience of the work of art, a continuation of the so called light and space art prevalent in the USA in the 1970s. As onlookers we are often included or surrounded quite literally by the work, or Eliasson lets it materialise in other conspicuous ways.
 
The majority of his works have nature or natural elements as their foundation, such as air, snow, ice or water, but 'nature' as subject is not Eliasson's final objective. Rather it is an avenue to explore the individual and his or her subjective sensory perception.

The portrayal of nature then should not be seen as conventional encouragement for passive or even enlightening contemplation, but as stimulation for systematic studies and scrutiny.

THE WORK IS YOU, THE ONLOOKER
Eliasson places us as onlookers in the present, here and now, and we are both observant subjects and subject matter in the work. Often, as is the case with ARKEN's pieces, Eliasson's art stages a temporal dimension. We perceive and understand his works through the time it takes us to take them in. Movement is frequently a direct feature of the work, and we are always encouraged to move physically in order to be able to sense the entire work.

Eliasson explores how we think, see, perceive and are physically present in the room. Thus the onlooker inspecting the work becomes an integral part of it. Says Eliasson: "My work is you, the onlooker."

This includes Eliasson among the artists who since the 1960s have had the onlooker as a fundamental part of the work. Since minimalism artists have endeavoured in sculptures and installations to include the onlooker physically in the work, making him aware of the significance of the body, and not just the eyes when it comes to perceiving art. The function of the artist is a constructor of situations that explores the relations between artwork and onlooker.

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