The marvellous work of James Turrell at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

PUBLISHED: 08:31 19 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:12 20 February 2013

The marvellous work of James Turrell at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

The marvellous work of James Turrell at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

This month we showcase the Skyspace by James Turrell, one of the most unusual pieces of work at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Art Fund, the UKs leading art charity, commissioned a permanent Skyspace by James Turrell at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2006. This was the first contemporary commission for The Art Fund and its most significant gift to the nation since The Burghers of Calais by Rodin in 1911.

James Turrell had long been an admirer of the Yorkshire landscape and first proposed transforming YSPs disused deer shelter an 18th century Grade II Listed building into a Skyspace in 1993 following an extended visit. YSP curated an exhibition of Turrells light installations in the Underground Gallery in 2005-6 to coincide with the opening of the Skyspace.

Turrells practice is primarily concerned with light and space and he has been building Skyspaces since 1974. A Skyspace comprises a chamber containing only seating, lighting and an aperture in the ceiling to view the sky through.

They use a careful balance of interior and exterior light designed to have a powerful effect over those who enter them, giving space for thought and altering how a visitor perceives light. The properties of the chamber and the aperture allow the sky to appear as though it is within reach and, in time, a visitor may comprehend the sky differently. Another effect is one that could be referred to as a meditative state, or one of enlightenment.

At YSP, his work does not alter the shape of the landscape or disturb the tranquillity of the deer shelter but creates a place of contemplation and revelation, harnessing the changing light of the Yorkshire sky. The Skyspace here consists of a large square chamber with an aperture cut into the roof.

Through this aperture the visitor is offered a heightened vision of the sky, seemingly transformed into a trompe loeil painting. It is one of the most popular sites in the park, and opportunities to experience a sunrise or sunset in the Skyspace are offered throughout the year.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park was established at Bretton Park, Wakefield, in 1977 by its executive director Peter Murray OBE. The park has five indoor galleries and 500 acres of 18th century parkland and has grown as an international centre for modern and contemporary art, experienced and enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year. Find out more at

Latest from the Yorkshire Life