James Turrell’s Skyspace @ National Gallery of Australia

Date of Visit: January 14, 2013

To be honest, I have never heard of James Turrell until I started compiling my daily itinerary for Naoshima Art Island and Kanazawa for my forthcoming trip to Japan.

The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra’s Within Without 2010 is part of a series of Skyspace art installations that James Turrell is doing across the world.  Personally, I find his idea of ‘Light as Art’ sitting a fine line between intuitively-sensitive people and time-sensitive people – since there is a time element involved to slow down in order to pontificate.

What is ‘Skyspace’?  ‘Skyspace is a viewing chamber that effects the way we perceive the sky’, it is a piece of on-site art that we enter via the footbridge into a sunken square pyramid (ie grass mound) surrounded by water.  There is a stupa inside where we take a seat, look up towards the sky and ponder or ‘meditate’.


Entrance to the art installation. A mound surrounded by water

The installation was sunken to muffle sound and reduce light pollution.  The grass mound is integral to the landscaping but being in the height of summer, the grass are drying up and dying…


An integral part of the garden’s landscaping

The colours were ethereal – turquoise water, terracotta-pink walls contrasting with the white-washed interior in the chamber inside the stupa.  It’s also rather cooling inside.


Basalt stupa inside the pyramid

Walk into the stupa via the bridge and take a seat.

What to look for?  The contrast between the artificial light within the installation and the changing external atmosphere affecting the appearance of the sky.  Watch for the changes in colour – dawn and dusk are said to be dramatic.  Sit, be patient and try to notice subtleties.  It’s an experience and takes time.


Moonstone echoing the opening (ie ‘cumulus) above

I find this remark of James Turrell very cute, whereby he was alluding the the slow-food movement that is very trendy right now to perhaps start a slow-art movement too!!


Look up towards the sky and contemplate the changing light conditions and shifthing climes


Back of Stupa – note the colours!

Needless to say, I am looking forward to see the art collaboration between an American cowboy and a Japanese ex-boxer (Tadao Ando) in Naoshima and how the cowboy manipulates light and colour in Kanazawa!

Update (August 2015):  I did not make it to Naoshima Art Island due to a grave family emergency, so Naoshima is still on my bucket list – however, I did manage to make a trip down to to Canberra to see James Turrell’s Retrospective at the NGA in April 2015 (here). ☺️

And for those of you who are interested in more of James Turrell’s works, please do check out Artsy’s James Turrell page which has his biography, over 50 of his works, exclusive articles, as well as an up-to-date  exhibition listings.