The Art of Environment:
James Turrell’s skyspaces
No matter where we are, our connection to our environment is crucial for a feeling of wholeness.
Whether we’re in an urban environment or in nature, what’s key is how present we are. If we’re distracted – we miss out on what the senses can tell us about the world.
Someone who’s comprehended that is James Turrell. The American artist is mainly concerned with light and space: he makes it his mission to direct his audience’s focus on the dimensions in which they move and onto celestial phenomena.
Of his work, his so-called skyspaces are some of the most arresting that attain this goal: enclosed spaces that open to the sky through an aperture in the roof. Simple enough as this sounds, its effect is powerful: a feeling of awe, of greatness – one could even say a religious or spiritual feeling overwhelms you when standing inside a skyspace.
In Fosbury & Sons Harmony’s hometown of Antwerp, we can be proud to say we’re lucky enough to have a Turrell skyscape right here: on the roof of MUKHA, the city’s contemporary art museum.
Standing there, you’re forced to look up and appreciate the sky – something us urbanized humans do way too little in daily life.
Recently, Turrell created a new skyspace in a location that arguably magnifies the concept’s effect: in Austria’s Arlberg mountains. At a height of almost 1800 meters above sea-level, The Skyspace-Lech, a lightroom inside a stone building at the end of a 15-metre tunnel, is set in alpine terrain, and is only accessible by foot or by skiing. With the winter holidays coming up, it’s a must-see if you’re heading in that direction.
Up in the snowy mountains, it’s the vastness of space and the brightness of the reflected natural light that give us a feeling of the supernatural, of the majesticness of nature.
It’s a remarkable way to connect to the sky, the light, the mountains, and art itself – to feel as one with nature, and thus connect with ourselves, too.
Photography: Florian Holzherr. Courtesy of James Turrell