Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The sublime in Turner

I visited Tate Britain and the National Gallery in London. One of the main purposes was to see the paintings by John Mallord William Turner.

Turner is mainly known for his paintings of scenery, especially those of the ocean, where the colors are mingled in a harmonious manner, to give an overall impression of fogginess and vibrancy.

Turner, however, also painted more concrete and "real" works, especially those based on war themes. The drawings and water colors of Turner demonstrate the precision with which the artist was able to capture the details of the subject, if and when he willed so.

Turner's paintings, at their best, give the impression of the "sublime" to the observer. In being merged in the sublime, things lose their individualities. For the purpose of the depiction of the "sublime" in this sense, the ocean, where the water and the lights and winds are in constant motion and resonance, was arguably the ideal subject.

With the traditional methodologies of painting of which Turner was a master, the artist is able to reproduce a particular impression with a degree of much higher exactness compared to the more contemporary methodologies such as installation.
As the artist is able to control every brush, the impression can become more finely tuned as the picture gets abstract in the conventional sense. Being abstract does not signify a loss of information in the case of Turner. Being abstract is the language for the faithful depiction of deep emotions and feelings, which the artist pursued all his life.

The innovations and aesthetical investigations to be found in the art of Turner gave the inspiration for the Turner Prize, which is in a sense a celebration of the continued evolution of the sublime in contemporary art.

The Sunrise with Sea Monsters (circa 1845).
One of my favorite Turner paintings.


Petrusa de Koker said...

Thanks for sharing this. Turner was an exceptionally talented man. I have great admiration for his work. He was way ahead of his time and had an amazing flair for colour.

Ken Mogi said...

Dear, Petrusa.

Good to hear from you!

When I look back on our past correspondences, it seems natural that you are an admirer of Turner.

The characters of humans and paintings somehow resonate.

Anonymous said...

Last year, it was the first New York City I had ever visited.

MET was then holding a special exhibition of the works of Turner: his 140 paintings and watercolors were there.

I remember as I continued to see the Turner's works, I was thinking about my friend and wishing there was him with me to share this feeling of excitement I felt.