Art Travelling: Olafur Eliasson at Tate Modern

Finally managed to get along to Tate Modern in London to see the Olafur Eliasson show. I fell in love with Eliasson, like everybody else, when he did the monumental Weather Project at Tate back in 2004. This was a totally groundbreaking piece, the construction of vast artificial sun in the cavernous Turbine Hall. An out of this world experience. Like so many others, I spent days there, basking in the alien yellow light; in the cold sunless London January it was the only sun available.

Fifteen years later Eliasson is back at Tate with a large-scale solo show that is a kind of retrospective, though the word seems strange to use for such a forward-looking artist, whose oldest works are totally fresh and don’t feel at all dated.

Eliasson’s interest in weather and climate and landscape are again manifest but now with the necessary urgency that present-day ecological awareness demands. From documenting the disappearance of glaciers in photography to creating optical illusions in a walk-through kaleidoscope, Eliasson’s work sits between the physics of time and space and the metaphysics of being.


between physics and metaphysics. Shadows as a property of being; recognising the self as a shadow (I recognised myself by my curls)
the narcissism of self-awareness in another person’s artwork
mysterious foggy room.  unsettling experience. Though the fog is benign it does mimic what I’ve seen in photos of polluted cities like Beijing and New Delhi.
the aptly-named “Beauty” – the simple beauty of rain, but indoors… strange and lovely but again, unsettling
kaleidoscope. Eliasson is fascinated by optics; the eye as a living part of us, not something external.

I notice from the Studio maquettes that no matter what he does, Eliasson always starts with biomorphic shapes. Cellular structures and shapes reminiscent of microphotographs of plants and insects etc.

At the end of the exhibition is a wall of images, clippings and sings that Eliasson has compiled. I really like it; in it, he has some important things to say:



Eliasson has something to say, but he does not preach to the viewer; he involves us in a conversation that reveals the wonder of the natural world (including our own bodies) and our place in it. Unlike some eco-aware thinkers Eliasson is not anti-human. His use of mirrors in so many of the works invite us to reflect upon ourselves, using our innate vanity to make us actually aware of the metaphysics of self-in-the-world.

Once again, thoroughly impressive and totally enjoyable work from what is probably the most necessary artist working today.

all photos ©Gillian McIver 2019; May be shared with attribution of photographer and artist Olafur Eliasson Tate 2019