James Turrell Skyscape

With Turrell's Skyscape

“Scientific perspective is nothing but eye-fooling illusionism; it is simply a trick - a bad trick - which makes it impossible for an artist to convey a full experience of space” (Braque)

How many times have you looked into a rectangle today, and how many times have you looked through that frame into an illusion of space?

Have we gone backwards, or round in a circle where, as in the Renaissance, we look through notional windows at an ‘eye-fooling’ space beyond. Has the concept of the flat picture plane become irrelevant to a 21st century generation of students who look through rectangular glass at virtual reality. 

So James Turrell’s Skyspace seems to me an act of brilliance as it gives us an alternative - the possibility of looking through a real hole into actual reality.

I first saw it at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It is a specifically proportioned room with an aperture in the ceiling open to the sky. Much like the light of a phone in the dark, the light of the sky outside changes the room’s colour.  Through the square hole we can feel the monumentality of the sky ‘space’ whilst simultaneously focusing on minute changes in clouds, light and colour.

Returning home I spent a few months working out how I could cut a hole in our roof. I didn’t do it, but I did change the way I see.

Now, after I’ve stared at the virtual world through my phone for too long I make a hole with my fingers, look at the sky and feel the physical pressure of its enormity and, to quote Braque, ‘a full experience of space’.

Clare Burnett is the President of the Royal Society of Sculptors.