abstract art, a systems view

James Turrell at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

with 11 comments

I love Deer Shelter Skyspace, 2006 by James Turrell, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It is a large square chamber with an aperture cut into the roof, through which you get a “heightened vision of the sky, seemingly transformed into a trompe l’oeil painting”.

I interpret it as a hallowed space, I feel the necessity to speak in hushed tones when I am in there, and I notice that others seem to do so too. However, today, asking others about their experience I realise that this is not universally so. I was going to suggest that the sacred space is always an aesthetic (immanent) rather than a spiritual (transcendent) experience.

When I visited today, my brother pointed out that rain had caused the Skyspace to be ‘mirrored’ on the ground. My gaze was so directed towards the sky that I had not seen it before.


Written by Andy Parkinson

September 1, 2011 at 7:52 am

11 Responses

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  1. One of my favourites at YSP too.


    September 1, 2011 at 8:51 am

  2. Sorry I’ve been so scarce lately; work on my thesis has been overwhelming and all-consuming. These paintings aren’t bad. For some reason, they remind me of Leibniz’s conception of the human subject as a “windowless monad” — windowless, of course, except to the “Supreme Being” or God.

    In any case, you might be interested in reading the latest section of my thesis, which describes at length the connection between early abstract painting’s exploration’s of space and its absorption into modernist architecture in the 1920s. The first half of the thesis is almost complete, as well.

    At the risk of seeming presumptuous, do you think it might be fitting to features the section on abstract painting and modern architecture on this blog? I still have a few things to work out, but it’s mostly finished. The decision is entirely up to you, of course, but it’s something I think the readers of your blog might be interested in.

    Ross Wolfe

    September 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    • yes please , i would be delighted! and with a bit of luck so might readers of this blog!

      Andy Parkinson

      September 1, 2011 at 11:29 pm

      • Hear, hear! 🙂


        September 2, 2011 at 12:43 am

  3. Oh, what wonderful experience! James Turrell’s work is just spellbinding for me. I was fortunate to go to one of his skyspaces in Dallas, Texas last year.

    I love how Turrell just makes you notice what has always been there– he simply frames the sky, but so many beautiful things result from this one simple act– the sky, the light, the shadow, and– even the ground itself!

    I too thought of Turrell’s skyspaces as a kind of sacred space– focused more on immanence– because it brings you back to this, here and now. I have been in love with his work for some time, but to actually walk into one of these places is something to experience.

    My parents, on the other hand did not feel the same way and didn’t understand why I was in such awe of the place. “It’s just a hole in the ceiling!” LOL


    September 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    • sounds so much like our recent visit, and some said “it’s just a hole in the ceiling”

      Andy Parkinson

      September 1, 2011 at 11:31 pm

  4. Cool. 🙂 This reminds me of a documentary where a guy made a camera obscura out of a whole room. You were inside the camera 🙂

    Charlie McDonald

    September 2, 2011 at 1:43 am

  5. Oooh, I did not know about the Yorkshire one! Have spent many hours at the Kielder Forest one and even more hours at the one at PS1 in New York. I feel a trip to Yorkshire coming on. Turrell has had a huge impact on me and my work over the years. He’s given me a sense of being alone with the work, even when surrounded by other people.

    Whistle Art Stop

    September 3, 2011 at 12:15 pm

  6. […] read a post recently by Andy Parkinson at patternsthatconnect that reminded me of something I had previously seen and loved at the deYoung Museum in San […]

  7. Hi there. This post reminded me of a piece I had seen years ago, and I could tell by your reaction to the sacred quality of this space that it must be the same artist. So, I went back to see it and indeed it is a Turrell skyspace at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco and thanks to you I was reminded of this beautiful, hallowed place! You can see some pics on my blog – (unfortunately, the solid layer of fog obscured the fact that I was looking at the sky). I like the effect of the weathering on the ground that you noticed – he placed a blue stone on the ground under the hole in SF, which I find more contrived and not as interesting as the natural effect of the weathering. It is so great to read the wonderful comments about his effect on people all over the world. Thanks for connecting us!


    September 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  8. Hi Andy,

    I have an almost identical photograph as my desktop image. The Deer shelter skyscape is an amazing piece that really spoke to me. It is reminiscent of a fougou that I visited in cornwall a couple of years ago. – here’s my picture – and here’s one of me in Carn Euny fogou.

    I totally agree on your analysis of the spiritual aesthetic of the space.


    September 9, 2011 at 8:30 pm

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