WITH JAMES TURRELL'S WORK, THE MECHANISM OF CREATION IS BEST WHEN IT IS INVISIBLE
Will Hunter As an artist in your own right, how did you start working with James Turrell?
Matt Schreiber He got in touch through C Project in Miami about 13 years ago because he wanted holograms. Since then I have spent a lot of time with James looking at and talking about his work, so now I have a very good idea of what he sees, what he wants. I've come to London to set up James Turrell: A Life in Art at the Louise T Blouin Institute [which runs until 28 February 2007].
Will Hunter Tell me a bit about one of my favourite pieces at the exhibition, Shanta Red.
Matt Schreiber It's from a series of 'cross-corner' projection works, which appear as a solid, three-dimensional form of light. The entire space should glow with the piece's colour. The form opposes the physical structure of the room - oating in front of, yet pinned to, the wall. As you approach it rotates as an object does.
The room's corner helps define the form as three-dimensional, as the edge is just slightly brighter, which is often not seen in a photo.
Will Hunter Can Turrell's work fit into any gallery space, or are there specific requirements?
Matt Schreiber Jim's pieces must always work with the site: everything is custom, nothing is universal. He gives me a basic layout and dimensions. For Shanta Red the ideal volume of space is about 3.75m high by 10 x 10m, but that doesn't exist in most galleries. It is important to keep close to the ceiling height, to have a minimum of 5m for the projection distance and a minimum of 8m to first see the projection, but ideally 10m. The construction of the wall - plasterwork, plumb and paint [Rosco 6002] - must be perfect. The space must be dark, with no direct light from any source other than the projection itself.
Will Hunter Is there a process whereby the room starts to become the piece?
Matt Schreiber First I use the drawings made by James to rough-in a shape on the wall.
For Shanta, I did this with a pencil, ruler and masking tape. The real making begins once the projector is in place and I can start manipulating the light.
The shape is made by a series of blades within the gate of the projector, which I cut and polish to a very sharp edge. When the piece is formed, there is still a noticeable small rainbow from light refracting around the edges of the blades and a wavering from heat. The filters usually take out the rainbow, but nothing can be done about the heat. Finally - using very dark sunglasses because the projector must be on - I clean the blades one more time with an ear swab and distilled water.
Will Hunter The process sounds extremely accurate yet also intuitive; does it require a very high technical specification?
Matt Schreiber We use Italian follow-spot projectors modified in the UK by Charlie Patton.
Bulbs are 1,200 watt MSR, which provide a clean point source of light - very even, bright, and sharp. We use 35mm or 70mm projection lenses of a very high quality from different companies that are specific in focal length to the piece. The colour is usually a dichroic filter placed at the projector's gate.
Will Hunter How do you screen all of this from the viewer?
Matt Schreiber In the case of the Institute, it's all housed within either a tower or the wall.
The goal is to completely hide and silence the projector. All buildings move very slightly, so the projector is on a oating yet solid platform not attached to the wall, but still the piece needs to be adjusted over time. With James Turrell's work, the mechanism of its creation is best when it is invisible.
NAME: Matt Schreiber
EDUCATION: MFA Holography at the Royal College of Art;
MFA Art and Technology at the Art Institute of Chicago
EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Worked with James Turrell, Chuck Close, Robert Ryman, Ed Ruscha
KEY PIECES: Platonic Solids exhibition 2006
MOST ADMIRED ARTISTS: Hans Memling, Peter Paul Rubens, Bruce Nauman