James Turrell, Gagosian, Britannia Street, London

4.00

Unlocking the doors of perception

We never tire of watching the sun set, of seeing light bleeding its last over the sky, surprising us with warm oranges, violets and mauves. The American artist James Turrell has been working for decades on his explorations of the human experience of colour and light, using both natural and scientific means of creating atmospheres, and his current exhibition, at Gagosian's Britannia Street gallery, provides several illuminating examples of the latter.

Sustaining Light (2010) looks like a tall window. In fact, it's a programming of light behind glass that gently allows colours to effloresce in soft, yet bright shades. One can sit in front of this work for hours on a small bench, in appreciation of all the many hues of colour that we have the luxury of experiencing in our little world. This might make you think of lava lamps and mind-expanding drugs, but also of faith or belief, and Turrell is concerned with all of this. He's the kind of artist who nudges the divine, but he also wants to expand our minds by allowing us to experience the natural beauty of light – the property that is most readily associated with gods and deities.

You will probably have to queue to see Dhatu (avoid Saturdays if you can), but the experience is both dazzling and calming. You will enter a smooth white space full of light and changing colour, so abundant with light and softness that you can't tell where the walls are. The space appears to change shape. The colour swamps you at some points; at others it seems like fog. It is an experience of colour as physical shape. Flickering lights create the experience of seeing that happens at the backs of the eyes, complex patterns that flare from your own wildly complex brain.

Bindu Shards (2010), which looks rather like an MRI scanner, is a hollow metal sphere which only one person can go into at a time. Unfortunately, it's booked up for the rest of the exhibition's run so I won't spend long on it here, but it involves an intense burst of the kinds of experience described above – magnified to the power of ten. Patterns like spinning chequered wheels in an intense array of colours spin and whip before your eyes, created by your brain's response to certain lights. Like drugs and dreams, it's an experience beyond the limits of language.

Even without this work, however, the exhibition maintains its power, giving you the chance to experience an intense variant of what Turrell has so eloquently described as "the wordless thought that comes from looking into a fire". At Gagosian you can also see some models and plans for the building Turrell has been constructing inside the Roden Crater in the Arizona Desert since the early 1970s, as well as some beautifully produced photographs of the site. Turrell is transforming the inner cone of the crater into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for the viewing and experiencing sky-light, solar and celestial phenomena. If he ever manages to complete it, one can only imagine the experiences of natural wonder that it will hold.

Though his artificial experiments with light are sublime, I tend to prefer Turrell's use of sun, moon and starlight, and I wonder whether he too might prefer working with these.

To 10 December (020 7841 9960)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?