June 5th, 2015

People are walking out of the setting sun, between the trees and the ha-ha, like purple shadows. I am standing on the stone threshold of a Palladian country house, watching them intently. What am I on? It is perfectly legal. It’s not even a legal high that’s going to be banned by Theresa May. All I have taken, honest officer, is a dose of James Turrell’s mind-bending art

It all started when we crossed the ha-ha – which is country house speak for a walled ditch – and found a folly that looks like a classical temple but is in reality an old water tower. Entering via a pitch-black corridor, everything became strange. I could only negotiate the tunnel’s bends by feeling the walls until suddenly I was inside a throbbing, pulsing purple cloud. With time, as more people stumbled in, a glowing blue screen appeared – but I soon found I could put my hand right through it, into the space beyond that seemed infinite and immeasurable, empty and yet solid: an entity of light.

If you are looking for psychedelia in the English countryside this summer, Houghton Hall near King’s Lynn has an alternative to the usual festivals. James Turrell’s exhibition at this grand classical house built for Britain’s first (and most corrupt) prime minister Robert Walpole in the early 1720s is like a silent, empty and beautifully eerie festival. Instead of decibels it has swamps of colour, instead of crowds green landscaped gardens where hounds and herds of deer wander. It is a trip. As the bearded, beaming Turrell disarmingly observed at the unveiling when asked if it was not too crass to call his art psychedelic: “It’s actually much better on drugs.”

Writes Jonathan Jones in The Guardian

Link to the full article here / Link to The Guardian here

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