Olafur Eliasson’s Dnipropetrovsk Sunrise

The Danish-Icelandic artist's glowing art installation shines on the Ukrainian city

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A large, glowing disc appeared on the north bank of the Dnieper river in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine (pronounced: “nyi-prop-e-trovsk”) earlier this month. It was a welcome addition and a perennial source of light to a city whose brutalist highrises prompt residents to make full use of the outdoors, even during winter. Come rain or shine, the opposite south bank maintains its loyal adherence to a post-Soviet, idiomatic language of PDAs, vodka vending machines, clashing techno-beats and 24-hour beer kiosks. 

The workers in the factory don’t see steel as an object but as something that’s forever changing. I wanted that to be reflected in the work and especially in the sun, that changes in appearance throughout day and can be used by everyone in all parts of the city

What might appear like a second sun, however, rising from the horizon and illuminating the city, is the latest sculpture from artist Olafur Eliasson, whose solar-themed installations have won him global renown. After the success of his 2003 Weather Project in the Tate Modern’s turbine hall (which allowed visitors to bask in the glow of an artificial sun under their own reflection and a faint mist), he has gone on to produce light sculptures internationally and implemented his Little Sun project this summer at the gallery, showcasing a solar-panelled portable lamp designed for third world territories that are “off-the-grid”. This latest sculpture in Ukraine however, is most reminiscent of Eliasson’s 2000 sculpture, 'Double Sunset' in Utrecht, Germany.

Like that original take on the conventional billboard, the 'Dnipropetrovsk Sunrise' in Ukraine presides over the city, resembling a sun during the day and a second moon at night. A sculpture, an illusion and a literal injection of light into a predominantly grey landscape, it is also an innovative facet of the environmentally progressive Interpipe steel factory, opened in early October by the company’s founder, magnate and philanthropist, Victor Pinchuk. Pinchuk commissioned Eliasson to create the sun, in addition to four other works, including: murals on the outside walls, a mirror-lined walkway for workers entering the plant, a series of elliptical mirrors on the largest surface inside the factory and a series of arches that form a tunnel at its entrance.

It is a collaboration that allows Eliasson to utilise his experience of industrial art. In his home country of Denmark, he explains that there has always a stronger tradition for “art in factories, as opposed to in galleries.” It is this utilitarian approach, “creating work that works with people” as he puts it, that makes Eliasson’s sculptures so far-reaching and accessible. On a visit to the plant last week, employees spoke excitedly of the work and of the glowing second sun outside when they arrive to each morning.

“It is tied to what we do here,” one of the workers shouts from the factory floor and over the roar of molten steel being poured into a chamber next to us. “It makes us feel proud.”

Though he is keen to let the work speak for itself, Eliasson seems happy with this result. “I wanted to avoid creating a static monument.” He adds. “The workers in the factory don’t see steel as an object but as something that’s forever changing. I wanted that to be reflected in the work and especially in the sun, that changes in appearance throughout day and can be used by everyone in all parts of the city.”

The sculptures are permanently installed at the Interpipe steel factory and reflect a burgeoning, contemporary art movement happening throughout the Ukraine. Kiev is now home to the Pinchuk Art Centre, which has just closed its doors on Kapoor in time for Damien Hirst’s arrival next month.

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