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'Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life' at Tate Modern: 'A vital and vibrant exhibition'

The Danish-Icelandic artist challenges perceptions in this mesmerising showcase in London.

2019-08-05

Words: Simon Button

Art is never more thrillingly alive than in the hands of Olafur Eliasson. The Danish-Icelandic artist masterfully uses sculptures, installations, paintings and photographs to create work that delights the eye and heightens the senses.

Tate Modern’s 'Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life' brings together more than 40 of his works for an exhibition that’s far from being a stodgy stand-back-and-look admiration of his genius.

Instead, it’s immersive and interactive as it looks at nature, movement, geometry and our perceptions about the world - themes that have fascinated Eliasson since he started out in the early '90s.

Thus we get orbs throwing strange shadows, a wall of moss that’s oddly transfixing in its blandness, lights that bend and multiplies your silhouette, and a tunnel of metal that makes you reflect on your own reflection.

I was especially taken with the long, fog-filled corridor that goes from summery reds and oranges to wintry greys and blues, sometimes so dense you can’t see the people behind or in front of you until they emerge from the mist like something out of ‘Blade Runner 2049’.

The ‘Big Bang Fountain’ is equally spooky, housed as it is in a jet black room that’s suddenly, startlingly illuminated by bursts of strobe-lit water.

If there are any gripes to be made about this most vital and vibrant of exhibitions, you could point to the fact it’s relatively small - merely the tip of the iceberg of this Danish-born, Iceland-based artist’s work.

At capacity, it can also get pretty crowded but then it’s rather fitting to find yourself rubbing shoulders with so many people when Eliasson is as interested in how we interact with each other as he is in how we interact with nature and the elements.

'Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life' is at Tate Modern until 5 January 2020.