Approaching the opening night of Olafur Eliasson’s latest exhibition “Volcanoes and Shelters” at Neugerriemschneider, I am not sure what to expect. Eliasson is well known for his sculptures and installations, not his photography. On arrival the space is packed full of art enthusiasts, mainly of the older generation, gliding around in expensive coats and dotted amongst the younger, more eccentrically dressed individuals. There are also a couple of cameramen floating around the room, one of whom is wearing a canary yellow fleece and a tiger print cowboy hat – possibly the only person feeling more out of place than I do.
The first photographic collection, ‘The Hut Series’, consists of 56 simply framed photographs in a grid format, each depicting different people’s homes in the far reaches of Iceland. It’s interesting to try and comprehend the hut-dwellers’ lives on the fringes of civilization; having only ever lived in cities.
Similarly mind-boggling are the photographs from ‘The Volcano Series’ situated on the next wall – that nature is capable of such organic phenomena is amazing. I am surprised to see not only the bleak, monochrome landscapes I would expect from Iceland’s unique geography, but also vivid Mediterranean blues and greens; either engulfed in the landscape or being encased in a circle of snow and ice caps.
Olafur Eliasson at his studio. Photo: courtesy of the artist.
The subject matter is almost otherworldly, like nothing I can relate to – which also leaves me thinking that given this topic, surely any photograph depicting it would be impressive? Despite this I enjoy the series, and at least find them a lot more engaging than the work of other artists focusing on the Nordic landscape (for example Benten Clay).
The rest of the exhibition is divided into two rooms, one of a map series and the other holding driftwood sculptures, perhaps more recognisable to fans of his previous installation work. The maps are particularly beautiful – a different documentation of the Icelandic terrain which Eliasson is covering. The maps are transformed by thin layers of coloured glass acting as a filter, giving them an almost ethereal quality.
People and poodles
Overall I felt that the exhibition was not amazing but tepid, and left me wondering why Eliasson had strayed from his usual medium of sculpture, which he does so well. Experimentation in other artisitic media is obviously good, but not necessarily the right path for every artist to take. I also definitely felt a little out of place amongst the art bourgeoisie on the opening night, and found it fitting the dog of choice among Eliasson enthusiasts (dogs often accompany their owners to art openings in Berlin) is a poodle. Nice, but a little boring.
- Neugerriemschneider – Olafur Eliasson’s “Volcanoes and Shelters” – Exhibition runs until 26th January 2013 – Tuesday to Saturday 11am until 6pm – Price Range from €20,000 to €175,000.
Article by Marie J Burrows