James Turrell RA

For over half a century James Turrell has worked directly with light and space to create artworks that engage viewers with the limits and wonder of human perception. Turrell is an avid pilot who has logged over twelve thousand hours flying. He considers the sky as his studio, material and canvas.

Informed by his training in perceptual psychology and a childhood fascination with light, Turrell began experimenting with light as a medium in southern California in the mid 1960s. In 1967, The Pasadena Art Museum mounted a one-man show of his Projection Pieces, created with high-intensity projectors and precisely modified spaces. Investigations such as these, aligning and mixing interior and exterior, formed the groundwork for the open sky spaces found in his later Skyspace, Tunnel and Crater artworks.

Turrell often cites the Parable of Plato’s Cave to introduce the notion that we are living in a reality of our own creation, subject to our human sensory limitations as well as contextual and cultural norms. This is evident in Turrell’s over eighty Skyspaces. The simple act of witnessing the sky from within a Turrell Skyspace, notably at dawn and dusk, reveals how we internally create the colours we see and thus, our perceived reality.

‘My work has no object, no image and no focus. With no object, no image and no focus, what are you looking at? You are looking at you looking. What is important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought’

James Turrell

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens is home to two pieces of James Turrell’s work; Tewlwolow Kernow; an elliptical domed ‘Skyspace’ chamber designed as a space from which to view the sky and Aqua Oscura; a disused water tank is home to a camera obscura that presents a moving projection of light, emerging through the tree canopy high above.