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Olafur Eliasson | Artist Biography

A general visit to an art gallery consists of being able to view a series of objects hanging from the wall or placed upon a stand. However, Olafur Eliasson takes the role of seeing an object within a gallery space to a whole new level. Eliasson creates what is known to be as installation art. This modern art form is described as an artwork that must be walked through by the viewers to be able to experience it completely. Installation art is set up in a certain area for a short period of time and is preserved only through memory and photographs. Olafur believes that his work is not completed until the visitor may experience his or her subjective perception and mediation. Many of his works use the possessive pronoun “your” eg: Your Sun Machine (1997, Marc Foxx Gallery), Your Natural Denudation Inverted (1999, Carnegie Museum of Art,), Your Black Horizon and Your space Embracer, (2004, West of Rome). With this, he is implying that the spectator must engage to the piece and make the connection as part of the aesthetics of the installation.
“I see potential in the spectator – in the receiver, the reader, the participator, the viewer, the user.’ – Olafur Eliasson. To Eliasson, this is the perfect strategy to have the viewer take part in individual awareness, reflect on the piece and meditate.
Olafur Eliasson was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1967. He is Danish-Icelandic and is known to be one of the most famous contemporary artists of our time. His Icelandic nationality is the mold of his influence. Iceland’s landscapes and Eliassion’s works are very similar aesthetically speaking in the sense that they both share the same elements. He uses materials such as wind, light, and water (solid, fog, and ice) that are typical to that of Iceland’s landscape. Olafur’s works have been known to “mimic” nature’s unique power. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy and majored in Fine Arts. Eliasson created the Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin in 1995; he used this space for research and development. His early pieces were usually photographs of the Icelandic landscape which he later explains helped him have a financial role to support his future installations. Olafur’s artwork mainly consists of geometric forms and analytical lines which enhance the space and light that is being used. Eliasson combines light, movement and color in his exhibitions along with the viewer. His work invites his audience to participate into the public realm where they may find their own moments of self discovery.
“When I make something, which maybe is a work of art, I want this to be in the world. I want it to be sincerely and honestly and responsibly in the world. I want it to have an impact somehow.”
Eliasson explains his intentions for his artwork. As every artist should, they should feel like they would make a significant impact with the worlds. However, while doing research, I’ve noticed that Eliasson’s intention as an artist is to make space tangible. He creates playful works that demonstrate time and dimension. An example of this are his infamous New York City waterfalls. In these pieces he proves the time it takes for water to fall by placing such large artificial waterfalls in a large city such as New York. While the waterfalls represent time, ultimately, it is the viewer who can determine this depending on the distance and angle. Olafur creates a bridge to make his audience think about their surroundings, and how some objects and environments we perceive on a daily basis are usually seen to be self-evident. Eliasson’s work has also been known to mimic and recreate forces of nature and explore human perception. He does this while working with lights, shadows, stone, water, mist, or fog to create a specific environment. Eliasson feels that all these elements serve a purpose for his installations. For example, the simple use of light can cast a shadow upon a wall for the viewer and can project two-dimensional shapes on a white wall which would create the illusion of a three-dimensional space.
His work sometimes consist of horizon lines which not only are an example of mimicking nature, but also make the whole piece three-dimensional and give off a sense of confusion. Eliassion calls this “illusory architecture” which is when space creates an illusion, even though one is aware of the walls and space surrounding you. Some work that includes a lot of illusory architecture is the piece Take Your Time (2008) which fit the idea very well. The viewer feels as if they would like to inhabit the space for a while. The installation uses monofrequency lights to completely cover the room in shades of yellow and black and intimately involves its inhabitants. Another room, Beauty (1993) consists of a dark room covered in black tiles where a mist falls from the ceiling and creates a rainbow curtain to walk through. What’s so spectacular about this piece is that it’s different every time and for every person. Upon visiting the installation, what one person sees as yellow, could be seen as violet for the other person; no matter how close these two people may be, the outcome will always be different. With this piece, one can really say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Another room invites you to completely immerse yourself within the color spectrum, 360° Room For All Colours (2002). The circular room blankets the audience with a display of light that race around the cylindrical wall. The colors overlap and create an endless amount of shades of color. The installation manages to rearrange your visual senses from being dependant on one’s vision until you realize that your other senses take part in enjoying the artwork. This
piece covers the viewer with nature’s color palette, which is referencing to Eliasson’s photography from the Icelandic landscape.
The Weather Project (2003) at Tate Modern Museum in London consists of a giant sun made of over 200 yellow lamps in a semi-circle reflected over mirrors on the ceiling. The mist that covers the museum is made up of water and sugar. The installation itself attracted over two million people whom would behave oddly in front of the ceiling mirrors. Eliasson described this works as “seeing yourself seeing.” This is one thing I’ve noticed about Olafur Eliasson’s work, is that it evokes feelings and sensation. All art has a way with creating emotions. Within the functions of art, there is always a concept. As a society, most people may appreciate photography or film more because we make connections and find it easier to relate to and we’re forced to see what the artist sees. This is why I think installation art is probably not recognized as much as photography within society. However, the function for art is solely to be art, otherwise, it’s just a design. Installations and exhibition art are meant to tell a story or evoke emotion, which is what Eliasson’s work does in such a simple manner. The work of Olafur Eliasson has given people the idea to “see double.” He creates his installations with the intention of expressing vision through the audience’s experience with spatial design. With this, the viewer is usually confused about his or her surroundings which may lead towards reflection on ones life.
Olafur Eliasson’s work is known to be eccentric and has a geometric use of projections of light and mirrors, analytical lines and natural elements to confuse the viewer’s perception of place and oneself. Eliasson also creates a foreground sense in each of his works. When Eliasson transforms a gallery into a space of nature, he creates a deep connection with space for the viewer that lets his or her think about their own senses and life. His work challenges one’s mind and makes you think about what you feel when you see the work at first and what you may already know. This creates a battle with perception and self. His works are known to be thought out works of experiences that make one wonder about what they are seeing, and if what they are seeing is really there. This is why I think Olafur Eliassion stands out the most in the wolrd of environmental installation. He creates installations that make people question about their own spatial awareness, and I think it’s something a person would have to experience first hand to fully understand.
Citations “Take Your Time.”. 2010.

Historical Relationship Between Art and Music

Referring to key examples, identify and discuss the historical relationship between art and popular music, using key examples to support your argument.
Some people would think that art and popular music have no combined points of reference, and that each is a completely separate unit, with each subject trying to achieve several different goals. However my intentions are to prove that this is not true. I believe that they have linked many times in the past particularly during the creation of the Dada movement in 1916.
Hugo Ball composed sound poems and performed them at ‘Cabaret Voltaire’, a club he opened that consisted of an ‘artists club, exhibition room, pub and theatre all rolled into one’, it showed several styles of artistic performances. He believed others like him were ‘interested not only in enjoying their independence but also giving proof of it’. On July 23rd 1916 Hugo Ball recited his sound poem ‘Karawane’. It contained seventeen lines of text, which have no meaning but was successful for the resonance of the tone and in the manner it was performed. The visual version is also congratulated for the several styles of font used to decipher different emotions. For example, ‘a sort of undulatory motion is produced by the alternative use of italics and roman type, while the left column produces a soothing effect’. Cabaret Voltaire and founder Hugo Ball were the main creators of the Dada movement in Zurich 1917. The Dada movement is believed to be the co-founder of contemporary art. ‘Contemporary art as we know it could not have come into existence without Dada’. It was breaking down and merging the differences between the several art forms as a response to World War 1.
Richard Huelsenbeck was a close friend of Hugo Ball, who also recited on the 30th March at Cabaret Voltaire and was also associated with the Dada movement. Although he believed Dada needed to be stronger and more political and in 1919 set up his own club, Club Dada in Berlin. He was regarded as ‘arrogant, and that’s how he looks. His nostrils vibrate, his eyebrows are arched’, and was not liked by the public. His work and several of the Club Dada creators were ‘more political than the other Dada-groups’ they released convincing magazines to illustrate their beliefs through photomontages and manifestos. His works include ‘The end of the world’ and ‘Don Inigo de Loyola’, which were more obviously political than that of Hugo Ball.
Louis Armstrong was one of the first jazz musicians to experiment with his vocal techniques. By improvising the original composed music, and creating sound on the spot, he created skat singing. He is still well known as one of the greatest jazz musicians today for his ‘spontaneity, and amazingly quick, inventive musical mind’. I believe this is a good example of the kind of performances that would be shown at the Cabaret Voltaire, although he did not.
‘I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.’ Piet Mondrian
Piet Mondrian was influenced by music, particularly the style that surrounded him whilst in New York. In particular his piece ‘Victory Boogie Woogie’ 1942 – 44 (which was not named by him but based on his original piece ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’ 1942-43) was based on a title for a song and type of dance, which was extremely popular at the time and still heard of today. ‘Among his collection of records, was the album Boogie Woogie from 1942, the inspiration behind two of his most famous works.’ Set in the Jazz period the piece represented the ‘short melody lines that were interrupted by open rhythmical patterns’ as seen and heard in Jazz music. He would use plastic and bits of paper to illustrate and create new rhythms across the canvas, and create a busy, fast work to reflect the upbeat music and the bustling environment of New York.
Jazz music played a big role in Mondrian’s work both as ‘jazz music and modern art depend a great deal on improvisation’. Like jazz where an artist will never play the same thing twice, Mondrian also would rely on instinct and natural ability to present his work. It presents a sense of randomness and how the artist was feeling at that particular time, which is found throughout many other artist movements.
Jakob van Domselaer was a composer of the works ‘Proeven van Stijlkunst (Experiments in Artistic Style)’ and a close friend of Mondrian. His work was inspired by Mondrian and the art movement De Stijl, which represented using simplicity, limited colours and using horizontal and vertical lines.
Walter Gropius was the founder of Bauhaus school of art and design in Germany 1919. It revolutionised the art industry by replacing ‘the traditional pupil-teacher relationship with the idea of a community of artists working together’. It combined artists from all creative industries and allowed people to be creative and meet creative people. It was very influential and housed several well known artists including ‘Kandinsky’ and ‘Klee’. Walter Gropius was a lover of art and music, therefore inspired art students to start musical groups and blend with people from other creative industries, which was important for the progression of art to inspire new, creative ideas from both sides.
The Bauhaus Jazz Band in 1927 played ‘the Charleston on the Bauhaus Roof’ which originally inspired this link of art and music, and was the main reason for starting the trend of artists creating bands. ‘Bauhaus, Dancing on the Roof focuses only on that exhilarating moment when utopian dreams, uncertain ties, and fresh visions’.
The sixties was a massive decade for both art and music, with great pieces of work being produced from both the fine arts and the performance arts. The Beatles are one of the main well known music group that connect art to music, as most of the members were artists before creating the band. Also Stuart Sutcliffe, a previous bass player for the Beatles, dropped out and started doing art. ‘(Stuart Sutcliffe Untitled 1961-62)’. When the Beatles first began 50% of the fans that would see them perform were art students including ‘Astrid Kirchherr’ a photographer that would take pictures of them. ‘George: “Astrid was the one, really, who influenced our image more than anybody. She made us look good. She was the one who had the lather kecks and the Beatles haircut.”‘. ‘Sam Walsh used to jokingly call themselves “jazz artists” rather than “pop”, believing that their art owed more to the free-form improvisation of American artists’ During this time, music and art formed together like never before, with both artists and musician practising together.
Adrian Henri statement : ‘”to the cataclysmic effect of the Beatles and Merseybeat
in general; yet the visual arts (and poetry) benefited from the sheer headiness, the excitement of the time, as well as the attention generated by the music”.’ In the late 1960’s the musicians, clubs and pubs surrounded the school of art, creating a bond between the two creative areas. With John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe being pupils of the art school, they were exposed to the musical talent surrounding them.
The Beatles revolver album was released on the 5th of august 1966 which reached number 1 in both the UK and the USA. The cover illustration was created by German-born bassist and artist Klaus Voormann. The image is mainly a simplistic line drawing but also using very recognisable aspects of each member of the band. It is also done in a collage style where a lot of images are placed in between them which consist of more detailed images of characters taken by Robert Whitaker. It was stated to be a part of the phycodellic era, you also perceive this sense from the other albums that they have done in the sixties, by the way in which the surrealist art comes through.
The infamous butcher cover ‘Yesterday and Today’ has now become famous in the album art subject matter because of how controversial it was and has been called the Beatles album of all time. Shot by photographer Robert Whitaker, (who had also done other covers with the Beatles), the image shows the band sat down smiling while covered in ‘decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat’ while the four of them are dressed in butchers aprons this image proved to be too strong and was quickly banned, some DJ’s even refused to play it. Which, if you compare it to some of the art of today, it would be seen as acceptable, as freedom to a subject matter is an asset to the modern art world. Not only was their album art banned, but also some of their music, on the grounds that it could encourage a permissive attitude towards drugs, which also connects to the era, in which drug taking was popular. Their other album covers consisted of many modern artists including Robert Fraser, Robert Blake and Peter Blake. Although Peter Blake, may be well known for his cover ‘St Pepper’, in fact his wife Jan Howarth created this design with him.
John Lennon enjoyed experimentation with sound along with artist and wife Yoko Ono. They would create tape loops and use the technique ‘Musique Concrete’, a technology that allowed tapes to be cut and edited. Musique Concrete is defined as ‘a musiclike art form composed directly on magnetic tape by the electronic manipulation, distortion, or transformation of natural sounds and noises, as of musical instruments or rain’. The Piece ‘Revolution 9’ appeared on The White Album released in 1968. ‘This was made by layering tape loops over the basic rhythm of revolution’. Lennon called it ‘The music of the future’ and whilst it was loved by many people who appreciated and understood sound art, it was also hated, particularly by producer George Martin who ‘tried to keep it off the album’.
Paul McCartney, a member of the Beatles and Yoko Ono opened an art gallery, in the basement off a bookstore. ‘Indica’ was opened during the late 1960’s. It was where John Lennon met Yoko Ono on ‘Novermber 9, 1966’. During the exhibit ‘His famous retort : an imaginary five shillings to hammer in the imaginary nail’ made them inseparable. This was the start of the experimentation with sound and art. In 1968 they released an album with this inspirational sound ‘Unfinished Music No1: Two Virgins’ which was also famous for its controversial cover, that was slated and not appreciated by the public.
Exploding Plastic Inevitable consisted of organised sound and lighting events constructed by Andy Warhol in 1966. His favourite group Velvet Underground performed there along with the showings of Warhol’s films and Nico. Victor Bockris said’ “January to April 1966 was the golden period for the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol. After the psychiatrist’s convention, Warhol shot a scintillating film of the band rehearsing at the Factory, symphony of sound, which remains the single best visual record of the Velvet Underground. They also recorded sound tracks for two of Warhol’s best movies shot at the beginning of the year, hedy and more milk yvette.”‘. Andy Warhol was inspired by the times music particularly this group and filmed them. Using these as inspiration he created many current day artworks, which celebrated the popular culture, exactly what the musical groups wanted to achieve. Exploding Plastic Inevitable was said to be very heavy on the emotions, as it was loud and bright with strobe lights, colours exploding and ‘the light-show could be blinding at times’.
Another example of a more modern link is the punk scene, which was said to have two causes. The first being a response to the environment and current trends, the second coming out of art schools. Malcolm Mclaren stated that he was responsible for ‘starting the Punk movement in Britain’ and was also heavily involved in forming The Sex Pistols, and became their manager. The Sex Pistols were the first Punk band in Britain and formed the punk scene, along with the fashion and political values that came with it. Malcolm McLaren was also a fashion designer and an art student in the sixties; it was this that led the movement in its uniqueness of clothing and style. After The Sex Pistols and the punk scene, he became more involved in his ‘burgeoning art career’; he wants to be taken more seriously as an artist and calls them ‘musical paintings’.
Malcolm McLaren’s video piece ‘Shallow’ has been given great credit to his anticipation of becoming a more recognised artist. His work on erotica and music was becoming more popular with the public. ‘”Since I was an art student in the Sixties I’ve been interested in the foreplay in sex films, I’m not sure why – intrigued by the blandness, the stupidity and the kind of innocence of these people who couldn’t act but who would be paid to have sex. Sex films became more hardcore, and lost a lot of charm in the Seventies. Somehow this was allied to my feelings about a disappearing world of pop culture – the images were how I imagined pop music to look. The feeling was the same as when I was 13 – imagining a world of sex you might imagine or never possibly have, and listening to pop music.” This is a perfect example of the link between art and music, I feel at this time it was stronger than it has ever been, with artists considering music as a topic for their work, or even having or creating music to enhance their art.
Jamie Reid created the cover album art for The Sex Pistols; he was involved with the situationist movement and a strong believer in anarchy. The situationist’s ideas were very hard to accumulate, as there were several ideas about the movement, ‘Situationists focus on their cultural ideas, particularly in relation to detournement and the development of punk’. They believed in looking at real life, instead of false truths. Jamie Reid’s famous cover ‘God Save The Queen’ was known as one of ‘the single most iconic image of the punk-era’. His work involves the cutting from newspapers and combining graphical work that has and always will be recognized for it anarchistic feel. It was loved and hated at the time and some of his work has been banned in the past.
Brian Eno studied at art school, but became involved with the glam rock group ‘Roxy Music’, even though he had no musical background or playing experience. After leaving this band he became more experimental with his music creation, taking the idea of chance with lyrics and sounds, he started to see his work as art not music and called it ‘visual art’. He used sound in an abstract expressionist way, in the same way as Jackson Pollock. His work ’77 Million Paintings’ was created in 2007, and is a ‘constantly evolving sound and imagescape which continues his exploration into light as an artist’s medium and the aesthetic possibilities of “generative software”‘. This involves the combination of image and sound working together. He is known as one of the most important people to combine the art and music worlds, and is still continuing to do so today.
In a more modern perspective, an example of the link between music and art is the group, Franz Ferdinand. Having come from an artistic background (‘Hardy graduated from Glasgow School Of Art, and Thompson also posed as a life model there’) they would rehearse in The Chauteau, they were known to have’ rave-like events incorporating music and art’. In their recent career they have been known to have artists and art references throughout their careers, including music video ‘Do You Wanna’, where several artists or art works are within the gallery where it is set. Although I feel this was to attempt to put them in an art music group, they wanted the public to know they were previously from an art background, making them more popular. Another example is their album art covers, which are obviously inspired by the pop art movement, as the techniques and overall appeal is similar.
Graffiti is part of the hip hop culture that has been split up into various different art forms such as Graffiti, Writing, Dj-ing, MC-ing and break dancing. There is a very close culture between graffiti art and some of the big hip hop artists such as Dr Dre, 50 Cent and The Game
Grafitti art has changed dramatically since its origins, with the likes of Bansky, a famous British artist. Not much is known because he hides his identity, (WHY) but he had start his rise to fame during the great Bristol aerosol boom of the late 1980’s most of his art are cover such topics such as ethics culture and politics, Banksy successfully combines graffiti writing and a stencilling technique that stands out from all of the others.
Graffiti has also been used on a wide range of album covers which shows a direct link from art to music such as Blur, a Britpop band who have used more than one of Banksy’s piece of artwork. This album Think Tank, has been said that it inspired some of Blur’s music. They have also used Banksy artwork on another cover, Crazy Beat, which was taken from one of Bansky’s original artworks. This graffiti was destroyed soon after Blur used it for their single cover, the council simply painted over it. The image was on the side of a privately-owned building in London’s Stoke Newington, featuring a cartoon version of the Royal Family waving from the top of a balcony, the council thought that they were cleaning the building, branding that the graffiti was unclean. The image was on the side of the building for 8 years before they decided to do anything about it.
I find the history of art with combined music to be fascinating. My favourite example being ‘Charleston on the Bauhaus Roof’ because i feel the teacher’s influenced the students to start these art bands, if not for this i feel art would have not developed as successfully as it did. I also think that art and music have a strong bond because they are both very personal subjects, in that one person may like the work and another won’t. Both industries have high demands to get out to the public and show their work, and hope that people appreciate what they have created. I feel the use of experimenting and combining all of the creative fields is expanding and artists and musicians will continue to use the creative minds of each other in both fields in the future.