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Olafur Eliasson on JMW Turner

Eliasson has analysed seven paintings by Turner to create Turner colour experiments

Turner’s colour experiments relate to an ongoing series of Colour experiment paintings which began in 2009 when Eliasson started analysing pigments, paint production and application of colour in order to mix paint in the exact colour for each nanometre of the visible light spectrum. Turner colour experiments demonstrate Turner’s continued relevance to and fascination for artists today.

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transcription

For some time now I have been interested in colour and I've done a number of colour experiments, some with light and some with paint, seeing if I could dematerialise colour and I, of course, looked at who has been occupied with the ephemera of colour. Of course, Turner is one of the great protagonists when it comes to ephemera, atmosphere dematerialisation. So I started trying to understand what exactly was it that Turner was working on when he was in fact working with colour and light.

When I started this project I chose a group of paintings and the group of paintings, for me, represented a certain effort that Turner had put into it, but also at some point I had to leave, let's say, Turner behind and say, okay, now we’ll focus on how to create these paintings so that they will work as a solitary statement and they can also stand alone.

I set up a small analytical scheme where I said how much colour and what colour, how much light and how much darkness, and I sort of laid it out. I was hoping to understand the paintings from the point of view of the atmosphere, the light. Hoping to achieve, let's say, a space in which the viewer can occupy themselves being busy, circulating the painting. So there is no centre, there is no vanishing point, you could say. There is no hierarchy.

I've been particularly focused on the works in which Turner radicalised his idea of ephemera, where it became abstract to the extent of, you really have to work should you want to create a narrative. This idea of you being put to work, you have to look for something, and after a while you realise one could argue that you are in fact looking for yourself, trying to make sense.

We're surrounded by things today which sort of takes that away from us, that we have to work to make sense, and we feel that we are more consuming things that have already been pre-digested or somehow made to work for you.

I think a Turner painting is very contemporary. It really has a lot to say today also and this is, I guess, why it's so amazing to see them because they don’t seem old, they look like something that is very relevant today.

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