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Cat Cairn: the Kielder Skyspace

James Turrell, 2000

A sculpture where internationally acclaimed US artist James Turrell manipulates our normal perceptions of light and space.

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"My work is not so much about my seeing as about your seeing. There is no one between you and your experience". James Turrell

Cat Cairn: the Kielder Skyspace is a sculptural artwork located on a rocky outcrop overlooking Kielder Water & Forest Park by internationally renowned American artist James Turrell. The artwork consists of a short tunnel that leads to a partially buried circular room, a ceiling containing a central circular oculus or opening, and a ring of seats forming the lower part of the inner wall.

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The nearest public parking is at the car park sited just off the C200 at the bottom of the forest road signposted to the Skyspace, and beyond to the Observatory.

Walking to the Skyspace takes around 45 minutes, by bicycle, approximately 20 minutes depending on ability. The return downhill trip is considerably quicker by bicycle. Visitors should note that the Skyspace is approximately 360 feet/110m higher than the bottom car park and while the route is not a difficult walk, the additional elevation makes the site more exposed, and it is often colder and windier up on the hill.

There are also excellent views across Kielder Water & Forest Park from the Skyspace.

Visitors wishing to drive up to the sculpture will need to get a key to pass through the forestry barrier beyond the lower car park. Keys are available from Kielder visitor centres, the local shop, the Anglers Arms in Kielder village and from the Calvert Trust activity centre.

Skyspace can also be accessed by following the Lonesome Pine red grade mountainbike trail. For comprehensive listing of cycle trails within Kielder Water & Forest Park, go to things-to-do/cycling and for the singletrack trails things-to-do/mountain-biking.

OS map re. NY 613928

Cat Cairn: the Kielder Skyspace is a sculptural artwork located on a rocky outcrop overlooking Kielder Water & Forest Park by internationally renowned American artist James Turrell. The artwork consists of a short tunnel that leads to a partially buried circular room, a ceiling containing a central circular oculus or opening, and a ring of seats forming the lower part of the inner wall.

The main structure presents an overall feel of simplicity and quiet away from the visual distractions found outside. We often experience the sky as being 'far away' because we see it disappearing behind trees, hills or houses. The Skyspace removes these clues and when seen from inside, the sky is often perceived to be right on top of the space, or sometimes intruding into it.

Visitors will find themselves in a space where the artist manipulates our normal perceptions of light and space. In daylight hours, this chamber; illuminated only by natural light through the roof opening, is a contemplative space that presents the ever-changing sky as a moving picture for visitor's enjoyment and meditation. As the light conditions change at dusk and dawn, a ring of hidden lights illuminate the upper part of the chamber and visitors can expect to experience a highly unusual display of tone and colour lasting up to an hour

James Turrell is interested in the psychology of perception, essentially how our brains work to make sense of the world around us and 'invent' a reality to fit the information that our senses provide. In the Skyspace a visitor's experience of colour becomes particularly challenged and the sky viewed from within the space often appears very different from the same sky seen outside. However, visitors are reminded that this is by its very nature, an individual experience, and no two people will 'see' the same thing.

A 10 minute walk up the forestry road beyond the Skyspace is the site of the Kielder Observatory where visitors can walk around its decks in the daytime or attend astronomical events in the evening.

Lighting times at the Skyspace change throughout the year as the days lengthen towards the summer solstice in June and shorten towards the winter solstice in December. The following table gives a good idea of the best times to visit the Skyspace in the evening at different times of the year. The lights stay on for approximately 2 hours in the evening, from around sunset until just after dark.

The lighting is also operational each morning. Visitors wishing to experience the morning lighting change should arrive approximately 2 hours before sunrise.

Note that the light changes more quickly in the winter than in the summer. Allow about 50 minutes time at the Skyspace in the winter, and 90 minutes in the summer to appreciate the full sequence.

date sunset time skyspace lighting
     
Jan-04 3 59 4 19pm - 5 46pm
Jan-11 4 09 4 29pm - 4 54pm
Jan-18 4 21 4 41pm - 5 06pm
Jan-25 4 35 4 55pm - 6 20pm
Feb-01 4 49 5 14pm - 6 39pm
Feb-08 5 04 5 29pm - 6 54pm
Feb-15 5 18 5 38pm - 7 03pm
Feb-22 5 33 5 53pm - 7 18pm
Mar-01 5 47 6 07pm - 7 32pm
Mar-08 6 01 6 21pm - 7 46pm
Mar-15 6 15 6 35pm - 8 00pm
Mar-22 6 29 6 49pm - 8 14pm
Mar-29 6 43 7 03pm - 8 28pm
Apr-05 7 56 8 16pm - 9 41pm
Apr-12 8 10 8 30pm - 9 55pm
Apr-19 8 23 8 43pm - 10 08pm
Apr-26 8 37 8 57pm - 10 22pm
May-03 8 50 9 10pm - 10 35pm
May-10 9 03 9 23pm - 10 48pm
May-17 9 17 9 37pm - 11 02pm
May-24 9 27 9 47pm - 11 12pm
May-31 9 37 9 57pm - 11 22pm
Jun-07 9 45 10 05pm - 11 30pm
Jun-04 9 51 10 11pm - 11 36pm
Jun-21 9 54 10 14pm - 11 39pm
Jun-28 9 54 10 14pm - 11 39pm
Jul-05 9 51 10 11pm - 11 36pm
Jul-12 9 45 10 05pm - 11 30pm
Jul-19 9 36 9 56pm - 11 21pm
Jul-26 9 25 9 45pm - 11 10pm
Aug-02 9 13 9 33pm - 10 58pm
Aug-09 8 59 9 19pm - 10 44pm
Aug-16 8 43 9 03pm - 10 28pm
Aug-23 8 27 8 47pm - 10 12pm
Aug-30 8 10 8 30pm - 9 55pm
Sep-06 7 52 8 12pm - 9 37pm
Sep-13 7 35 7 55pm - 9 20pm
Sep-20 7 17 7 37pm - 9 02pm
Sep-27 6 59 7 19pm - 8 44pm
Oct-04 6 41 7 01pm - 8 26pm
Oct-11 6 24 6 44pm - 8 09pm
Oct-18 6 07 6 27pm - 7 52pm
Oct-25 4 51 5 11pm - 6 36pm
Nov-01 4 35 4 55pm - 6 20pm
Nov-08 4 21 4 41pm - 6 06pm
Nov-15 4 09 4 29pm - 5 54pm
Nov-22 3 59 4 19pm - 5 44pm
Nov-29 3 51 4 11pm - 5 36pm
Dec-06 3 46 4 06pm - 5 31pm
Dec-13 3 44 4 04pm - 5 29pm
Dec-21 3 45 4 05pm - 5 30pm
Dec-28 3 50 4 10pm - 5 35pm