The Danish-Icelandic artist who brought the sun into Tate Modern’s turbine hall in 2003 for ‘The Weather Project’, and Greenlandic ice to the gallery’s riverside concourse in 2018 for ‘Ice watch’ is back with a major retrospective ‘In Real Life’.
Olafur plays with our perceptions in simple and transparent ways, creating installations of great beauty that also remind us of our relationship with the natural world, and our responsibility to it.
For example, in ‘Glacial Currents’ glacial ice is melted on to paper containing pigment.. A subtle reminder of our diminishing ice caps, about which this exhibition provides hard facts in an easy to understand way.
There is the enormous wall of green moss, first seen in 1994. Did he really keep the moss for all these years? Or has it been re-created?
Olafur explains his moss wall…..
‘Reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina), a lichen native to countries in the northern latitudes including Iceland, is woven into a wire mesh and mounted on the wall of a gallery. As the lichen dries, it shrinks and fades; when the installation is watered, the moss expands, changes colour again, and fills the space with its fragrance.’
When I visited the moss was dry and without odour, but the sheer enormity of the work is enough to create a sense of wonder and a desire to get really close to inspect the mossy fragments.
There is so much to play with and interact with; children and adults delight in the colourful exhibit ‘Your uncertain shadow’. We all love a selfie opportunity it seems, and the changing shadows as people move back and forth the room turn babies into giants and adults into children.
Most popular of all was the chance to walk through a long tunnel of light filled ‘fog’.
Glorious uplifting light and a feeling of disconnection and uncertainty created by the inability to see more than a few inches in front of your eyes, feeling the way with a hand to the wall.
Kaleidoscopes, waterfalls, rain.
Rainbows, tunnels, shadows, light.
This is an exhibition for all ages, and one with a deep message to us as humans.
The last room contains a magnificent wall of information full of quotes and information that feeds into the exhibition and a chance to explore some of the geometric structures that fascinate Olafur.
My favourite quote describes the criteria for a rainbow….
Just as a rainbow captivates, I was captivated by this show.
I hope you will be too.