Rhapsody in blue May 21 2013
James Turrell Museum at Wonju’s Hansol Museum shows artist’s four major works

There are more than 100 shades of blue on a color chart. But the blues we see in real life are limited to a few seen in our random gazes at the sky in the middle of the day.

At James Turrell’s “Skyspace,” which opened last week in Korea inside Hansol Museum, one can have uninterrupted hours of watching the sky and its changing colors that stretch the boundaries of the blue palette that we know.

“Skyspace,” an architectural installation with LED lights projected onto the ceiling, changes colors as the sun rises and sets, which also transforms colors of the sky seen by the viewers. (Hansol Museum)

Hansol Museum built a separate building opened last week, dedicated to four works by the American artist on the mountain top that overlooks the pristine nature of Gangwon Province.

“Skyspace” is a circular room where LED lights are projected onto the ceiling and an oval-shaped roof opens up. The expansive room with a long seat around the circumference offers two light shows a day ― during sunrise and sunset ― that last about an hour and 30 minutes each. When the roof opens, viewers can gaze up at the open space through a 5-meter diameter oval-shaped roof.

As the roof opens and lights are switched on, the clear sky of Gangwon Province is seen through the opening. As the LED lights change, the original color disappears in a split second and various shades of blue start to appear. If one takes a picture, the oval-shaped sky appears as a painted surface on a colored canvas.

“The color you see here is not the color of the sky you see outside,” said Choi Young-june, chief curator of Hansol Museum.

As a result of the LED lighting, viewers get to see a diverse spectrum of the sky. As pink and orange emerge, the sky turns into a deep blue. As mint or gray emerges, the sky becomes murky.

The artwork is the latest in Turrell’s “Skyspace” series shown at other locations, including the small Japanese island of Naoshima where his work was installed about 20 years ago.

The highlight of the sunset program is watching the different shades of colors until the sky all of a sudden turns jet black.

While the sunset program continues until the sky darkens, the sunrise program is the opposite. From a starlit sky, it slowly changes from dark blue to bright blue as the sun rises.

The sunrise program starts around 4:20 a.m. (the time changes according to each week’s sunrise forecast), which leads viewers to concentrate more on the artwork than they did during sunset. The cool morning breeze and the sound of birds chirping help viewers to not only concentrate on the artwork, but also appreciate the surrounding nature.

Reservations are required for the sunset and sunrise programs. Admission is 15,000 won for adults and 10,000 won for teenagers and children.

The James Turrell Museum hosts other major artworks that challenge perceptions of light, space and color.

“Ganzfeld,” a light installation that is based on a phenomenon commonly experienced by pilots who often face a moment when they can’t tell whether what they are seeing is the sky or the sea. (Hansol Museum)

One of the works is “Ganzfeld,” a space where viewers experience the unusual moment of being inside a sculptural work. Using light and space, the artist challenges how viewers distinguish two separate spaces, based on a moment when pilots can’t tell if what they are seeing is the sky or the sea.

Based on his flying experience, Turrell created other works such as “Horizon,” and “Wedgework” that bring viewers to experiences similar to how he felt on a plane surrounded by fog or encountering darkness.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)

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