Spanning almost a metre in width, Olafur Eliasson’s Colour experiment no 15 (large inside spiral) radiates prismatic colour. Like a colour wheel, the large circular canvas contains a luminescent rainbow which unfurls outward from a central opening; its shimmering hues appear to generate their own brilliant light. Colour experiment No 15 (large inside spiral) is an early work from Eliasson’s series of 'Colour experiments', which he began in 2009. Created in close collaboration with a chemist who mixed paints that reflect each nanometre of light, these circular paintings offer a new colour theory. Describing the series, Eliasson reflected that the works ‘deal with the translation of light into pigment, which of course has long been one of the central concerns of painting in general …. The circular shape, I feel, generates a feeling of endlessness, and allows viewers to take in the artworks in a decentralised, meandering way’ (O. Eliasson, quoted in E. W. Almino, ‘Olafur Eliasson on Turning Light into Colour’, Hyperallergic, 14 January 2015). For Eliasson, who has long investigated the properties of light through his installations and photographs, Colour experiment No 15 presents a continuation of his central thematic, explored here in luminous colour.
I am generally not as interested in what an artwork depicts as in what it produces, its performative aspect, the way it induces you to act and behave in space”
Eliasson, who is the subject of three solo exhibitions this year, at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and at Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art, has long been fascinated by natural phenomena. His ongoing investigation of scientific questions using aesthetic frameworks has produced a sensorial and corporeal art that alters its viewer’s perceptions. Indeed, any encounter with an Eliasson incorporates the viewer into the artwork: as critic Adrian Searle writes, ‘Eliasson’s art … is intended to make us aware of our bodily presence’ (A Searle, ‘Olafur Eliasson review – art’s weatherman fogs up Tate Modern’, The Guardian, 9 July 2019). The scale of Colour experiment No 15 (large inside spiral) renders chromatic relations life-sized, creating a chromatic cascade that is hypnotic and enthralling. To stand before the canvas is to be consumed by colour.
Lot Essay Header Image: Present lot illustrated (detail).