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Published August 30th 2016
A unique way to view the sky outside the National Gallery
James Turrell is an American artist whose work explores the connection between light and space on a large scale. He has created various Skyspace installations around the world to view the sky from a different perspective and one of these installations is located here in Canberra, outside the entrance to the National Gallery of Australia. Within Without 2010 invites the viewer into a spectacular dome-shaped viewing chamber to look up at the sky through a circular hole in the dome, to put it simply. However it is more than simple. It was installed in 2010 and for the last six years it has been intriguing and delighting thousands of visitors each year as they visit the National Gallery of Australia.
This art installation may be difficult to locate at first, as the whole design blends into the landscape around it. When you first arrive at the entrance of the Gallery the installation is located on the right hand side, down a ramp. From here you see a grassy mound in the distance, which blends into the background, however the dark entranceway shows there is something more to discover. Once you walk down the ramp and see the scale of the structure, it is clear to see why this artwork has become so popular in the international art world and community. It draws you in, captures your imagination and makes you wonder what you will experience inside.
As you make your way towards the grassy dome, you walk down a ramp and along a diagonal path with grass either side of it and a tinkling waterfall in the back corner. This peaceful walkway sets up the whole experience of enjoying this art installation. The water around the mound sits flat and calm, so when you walk down the purple tunnel into the unknown, the water remains raised above you.
The glass doors to this artwork are open 24 hours a day, so this artwork can be enjoyed in the evening at sunset or after dark, when the lights illuminate the spherical features. The rumour around the city is it is also known as "lovers corner" after dark, due to its secluded nature and romantic mood lighting. As you pass through the doors the central, basalt stone mound towers high above you leading up to the open sky. There is a ramp either side of it to walk up, which then displays a pure turquoise pool lapping around the bottom and a rush of water running into the troughs around the outside.
The sheer scale of the viewing chamber leaves you in awe, before walking up the entrance.
Inside the viewing chamber is a heated circular bench around the outside and on the floor is a moonstone set into the centre, which echoes the oculus above. As you look up through the circle viewing hole in the roof, the clouds move across the sky in a more focussed form. Twenty four people can fit in this little room, which was easily achieved by the school group that came in after our quiet visit.
When leaving the experience of Skyspace Within Without 2010, take some time to walk around the outside and see it from different perspectives. From the side you get more of an idea of how the stone internal dome sits within the outside mound.
Each day on the National Gallery website they advise the best time of the day to witness this art installation with perfect light. See here for today's time. I believe however it can be enjoyed any time of the day or night, with a unique experience of light every time you visit. It is a journey of intrigue and suspense to arrive at the door to the grassy mound, then as you walk inside it is another world which surrounds you. The sheer size of this work, the way it makes you feel and the wonder you experience at its creation, leaves you grateful for being able to have been part it. It is almost as if you have left an ancient temple which is honouring the sky. See here for other Skyspace installations that he has created around the world.
Afterwards, when returning to the National Gallery of Australia, ensure you also walk to the back of the gallery to experience the NGA Sculpture Garden - particularly Fog sculpture. With so much to experience outside the Gallery - prepare yourself for what awaits inside.
At optimal light. Source: National Gallery of Australia website