Olafur Eliasson has been preoccupied with colour thoughout his artistic practice. His experiments have included dying a river neon-green, creating rainbows and perhaps most famously, transforming the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern into a monochrome world of its own, 'lightened up' by an enormous artificial sun. Colour as both tangible and immaterial, as physical and psychological, is not only a central theme in Eliasson's oeuvre but similarly infiltrates many of his writings. Interested in questions of perception and the bridge (or gap) between science and art, his practice continuously engages with the extent to which colour is culturally determined and the extent to which it is a highly individual matter.
In Fivefold Colourwheel, Eliasson cleverly plays with the hues, tints and tones of the traditional colourwheel, used by many artists in the past as a reminder of how to match and mix colours. While the traditional colourwheel contain the three primary and secondary colours (red, blue, yellow and orange, green, purple), setting complimentary colours opposite each other, Eliasson's Fivefold Colourwheel has only five coloured areas, but throws in the component of light and its changing reflections. This luminous display, a chromatic spectacle in its own right, draws together a range of disciplines beyond its presence as a work of art. Colour, of course, has as much importance to the artist as to the scientist and the philosopher, and Eliasson's implication is that the act of viewing the installation is different for every viewer. As the artist himself suggests: 'colour doesn't exist in itself, but only when looked at. The unique fact that colour so to speak only materializes when light bounces off it into our retinal circus shows us that analyzing colours is in fact about the ability to analyse ourselves.'
One of the most prominent and inventive artists of today, Eliasson strives to bridge over between art and science to remind us of the centrality of both. Where his installation in the Tate Modern literally made spectators 'see themselves in a different light,' as all colours were absorbed by the yellow sun, viewing Fivefold Colourwheel and the endless reflections and variations it allows for is an open-ended process, a continuous motion, and not a fixed act of looking, as if looking at a painting.