Olafur Eliasson’s Newest Exhibition Floods Fondation Beyeler with a Bright Green Pond Filled with Plants
A flood of murky water overwhelms the stark white galleries of Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland. The new exhibition, simply titled “Life,” is the work of acclaimed Danish-Iceland artist Olafur Eliasson (previously), who set the Swiss institution awash in floating ferns, dwarf water lilies, shell flowers, red root floaters, and water caltrops.
To install the sprawling project, Eliasson removed the windows on one side of the museum’s facade, which allows visitors and nearby wildlife to enter the space at any time of day or night. The open-air environment subjects the manufactured reservoir indoors to the naturally occurring elements outside the building, like the weather, daylight, humidity, and smells and sounds of nearby public gardens. At night, a combination of UV lights and a fluorescent dye called uranine radiate brilliant colors throughout the water.
A prismatic livestream—Eliasson outfitted some of the cameras with apparatuses that mimic the sensory experiences of animals and insects—captures how the immersive space changes with each moment, especially as the surface reflects shadows and passersby. These interactions between human and non-human species foreground the project, which was inspired by anthropologist Natasha Myers who’s advocated for the advent of the “planthroposcene.” An alternative to the anthropocene, Myers’ concept is “rooted in the knowledge that plants are what made this planet liveable,” a statement says, clarifying that although the gallery is overrun with water, Eliasson’s goal is to evidence the interconnectivity inherent in nature.
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Calm bodies of hand-cut glass pool atop jagged concrete in Ben Young’s aquatic sculptures. The New Zealand-based artist (previously) is known for his marine landscapes that position miniature figures in vast expanses of the translucent material, creating a contemplative environment that juxtaposes a minuscule representation of humanity alongside the immensity of the oceans and other bodies of water. Each piece similarly contrasts the organic topography with the perfect right angles that provide the cubic shape and revealing cross-sections.
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Between 2015 and 2019, Indonesian photographer Daniel Tjongari made multiple treks to a complex of white sand beaches that sit adjacent to the Indian Ocean. He wanted to capture the fluctuating coastal area over time, a project that resulted in a series of dramatic, ethereal images highlighting the beauty of the region. Through monochromatic shots—he shares photographer Elliot Erwitt’s understanding that “color is destructive. Black-and-white is interpretative”—Tjongari frames the rocky expanses and waterfalls of Sawarna Beach in various states, whether shrouded in thick fog or experiencing a brief moment of calm.
Tjongari is a SONY Alpha Professional Photographer for SONY INDONESIA. He recently traveled to White Crater in West Java Province to shoot a new series, which he’ll be sharing soon on Behance and Instagram.
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Two Imposing Cubes Covered in Yellow Plastic by Artist Serge Attukwei Clottey Respond to Global Water Insecurity
A mottled patchwork of plastic cloaks two cubes that tower over the desert landscape of Coachella Valley. Titled “The Wishing Well,” the bright pair are the work of Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, who created the nine-foot pieces from scraps of Kufuor gallons, or jerrycans, in response to shared struggles with water insecurity that ripple across the world. Resembling a yellow brick road, a paved walkway connects the two woven structures that stand in contrast to the surrounding environment, which faces continual struggles with access to the natural resource.
Clottey’s use of the material is tied to a larger critique of colonialism’s enduring legacy and the ways it continues to affect populations around the world, particularly in relation to the climate crisis. Originally, European colonialists brought Kufuor gallons to Ghana to transport cooking oil. Today, the plastic vessels are ubiquitous and used to haul potable water. “As repurposed relics of the colonial project, they serve as a constant reminder of the legacies of empire and of global movements for environmental justice,” says a statement about the work that’s part of Desert X, a biennial bringing site-specific installations to Southern California.
“The Wishing Well” is one facet of Clottey’s larger Afrogallonism project, which he describes as “an artistic concept to explore the relationship between the prevalence of the yellow oil gallons in regards to consumption and necessity in the life of the modern African.” The Accra-based artist works in a variety of mediums spanning installation, sculpture, and performance that deal with the broader influence of colonialism in Africa. You can see a larger collection of his pieces on Artsy and Instagram.
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Swollen, glistening, and saturated with illusion, the ubiquitous water drop absorbed Kim Tschang-Yeul throughout his career. The Korean artist, who died earlier this year, was faithful to the seemingly mundane subject matter, choosing to depict the dewy orbs repeatedly after an initial painting in 1972 following his relocation to France. Inspired originally by a water-soaked canvas in his studio, Kim nurtured the viscous element in his hyperrealistic paintings created across nearly five decades. In an essay about the artist’s unending commitment, Dr. Cleo Roberts writes:
It is a tendency that seems to unite many of Korea’s avant-garde who took from Art Informel in the early ‘60s, including Ha Chong-Hyun and Park Seo-Bo. In this generation of artists, there is a ritualistic devotion to a chosen form, process, and, at times, colour. One could venture that, in the context of living in a volatile country ravaged by war, the security of immersion in a singular mode was an empowering choice, and may have been a necessary psychological counterpoint.
Whether depicting a singular pendant-shaped drop or canvas strewn with perfectly round bulbs, each of the oil-based works exhibits a deft approach to shadow and texture. The bloated forms appear to bead on the surface and are imbued with a sense of impermanence: if disturbed by even a small movement, they look as if they could burst or run down the surface.
Gleaming with occasional patches of gold and white, the transparent renderings foster a deeper connection to Taoist principles, in addition to questioning the tension between nature and contemporary life. “The act of painting water drops is to dissolve all things within [these], to return to a transparent state of ‘nothingness,’” Kim said in a statement, noting that his desire was to dissolve the ego. “By returning anger, anxiety, fear, and everything else to ‘emptiness,’ we experience peace and contentment.”
If you’re in London, you can see the first posthumous show Water Drops, which covers Kim’s entire career and features many of the works shown here, at Almine Rech from March 4 to April 10, 2021. Otherwise, head to Artsy to see a larger collection of the artist’s paintings.
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A Stunning Shot of Sharks Cruising Under a French Polynesian Sunset Wins the 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year
An exquisite shot of blacktip reef sharks circling underneath a jewel-toned sky in French Polynesia tops this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year contest (previously). Captured by California-based Renee Capozzola, the winning entry frames a pair of the white-bellied fish and airborne seagulls, forming a serendipitous composition that combines air, land, and sea. “I dedicated several evenings to photographing in the shallows at sunset, and I was finally rewarded with this scene: glass-calm water, a rich sunset, sharks, and even birds,” she said.
This year’s competition received more than 4,500 entries from photographers in 68 countries, including images of wrecked barges, frogs peering out from a muddy pond, and two ornery blenny mid-tussle. Capozzola is the first woman to ever win the U.K.-based contest since its inception in 1965.
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