Imagine also, to engage in a practice of artistry so ephemeral that it can’t be practiced after the sun sets. Imagine a design process that chases the sun. His own critique, adjustment and refinement play out in his memory during the dark hours, only to be recalibrated in real-time when the light returns. Between sunrise and sunset, he sees the fruits of his labour, timed to the unique, but ever-repeating, position of the seasonal sun.
In the context of the commercial design field, we cannot find a better inspiration for the purity of form, graphic perfection, and transcendental response. I can’t count the amount of times we’ve used his work as a reference to convey the power of simplicity and the ability for so little to do so much. The irony, of course, is that an image of his work in a reference deck does so little for the viewer when compared to the visceral response the work engenders in person. Time stops, eyes dilate and you become aware of your own body, its systems and processes, and slowly give into the void as figure becomes ground. This economy of visual structure is at the core of what we should do as designers. If we can bring even a fraction of his magic to our world of design, we find success.
I’ve never met Turrell in person. I have a friend that knows his friend. I know an architect who redesigned his kitchen in New York City. Everything I know is through hearsay, academic research, or the first person account of his exhibited work. I don’t know if he’s pleasant or mean, extroverted or contained, philanthropic or self-involved, but it doesn’t matter. I regard him with a mythic warmth that I can’t explain, as if the decades of light have somehow filled him up and now radiate outwards towards anyone who can see it. James, if you’re listening, put me in that crater.