The great “painter of light”, Joseph Mallord William Turner, now has a page at the artisans’ gallery.
Turner, and Turner only, would follow and render on the canvas
that mystery of decided lines,
that distinct, sharp, visible, but unintelligible and inextricable richness
which, examined part by part, is to the eye nothing but confusion and defeat,
which, taken as a whole, is all unity, symmetry, and truth.
– John Ruskin
on the man he regarded as the greatest landscape painter of all time.
Turner travelled extensively in the search of the sublime and beautiful. The paintings on his page are a small selection which (admittedly to my very subjective taste) express these qualities, regardless of whether one knows their location or subject matter; paintings which, in Ruskin’s words, deliver to the soul “unity, symmetry and truth”.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was just 15 years old when he exhibited his first picture at the Royal Academy. His talent in the application of paint to render land, sea, sky and atmosphere was unmatched in his time. Commonly known as “the painter of light”, we can thank Turner for taking painting to the edge of abstraction and playing there, unafraid. His priceless legacy to the generations of artists who followed gave them (us) permission to engage this fearless and playful expression of the sacred sublime.
Belz spent three years as an observer in Richter’s Cologne studio capturing mesmerizing footage of the artist producing his radical abstract works. As we witness him mixing layer upon layer of bold primary colors, smearing the wet paint with a giant squeegee and scraping at the surfaces of the canvases, Richter’s masterpieces appear before our eyes. “You get the feeling the paintings are staring at you,” says Belz, who met the painter while filming his vibrant pixelated stained glass window for the Cologne Cathedral. “There’s a physicality to Richter’s paintings. I wanted the viewer to become immersed in the subtly suspenseful cycle of the process.”
As I watched I scribbled down a few droplets of Richter’s wisdom that resonated deeply with me … all the quotes below are from this wonderful film, from the mouth of the man himself. Enjoy!
You can’t explain a painting in words. Painting is another way of thinking.
I’m always at a loss. That’s not the problem.
If chance had taken me elsewhere, I’d love it there.
Painting is a secretive business. As a painter I “let go” in secret.
To paint under observation is the worst thing there is. Worse than being in hospital. I act differently.
I create something I must respond to – until there’s nothing left to do.
Wherever the eye falls is the face of creation. – Sufi saying
The study, practice, and teaching of Zen have contributed as much to my photography as has any practical instruction. Fortunately, photographers who were technically rich as well as spiritual masters have guided me. I have received great benefit from their teachings. I now wish to share my photographs so that others can be enthused to trust life and its voices, audible and inaudible, in ways that these teachers have helped open for me.
There is … no need to ask what the image means nor why or how it was taken. For me it is enough to relax into the power of the moment the shutter is pressed or the printer is activated; to have no fear of trusting the truth of that moment.
I am a lover of beauty. I’m no philosopher and I can’t define beauty, but like everyone I know, I can spot it – or its absence. It expresses itself in an infinity of guises within the world of the arts, but these days it seems to be shy and requires some effort to be found. Frankly, most of what’s celebrated as “high art” in galleries and texts today leaves me covertly looking for the exits. So I was cheered to read Australian art critic Christopher Allen stating the case for beauty in a review of an exhibition of work by Berlinde de Bruyckere. These are the final paragraphs of his review.
There is a long history in the modernist tradition of assuming the beautiful must be a lie and that ugliness must be evidence of truth. One can understand the origin of this idea in a reaction against ossified academic standards, and simultaneously a revulsion against the hypocrisy of society. The modern world has seen more systematic moral dishonesty than any previous age, from Victorian moralism to political propaganda of all sorts and the manipulations of contemporary commercial culture.
But it is nonetheless a fallacy, like the mistaken assumption that cynicism is more likely to be correct than good faith. We have to reflect that if optimism can sometimes be stupidity, pessimism can often be cowardice. Hope and aspiration, even idealism, can be powerful forces for understanding the world; beauty, when real and not illusory, can be the deepest manifestation of the real. Truth, above all, is profoundly complex, and is never found in the self-indulgence of nihilism.
– Christopher Allen, The Weekend Australian, 23.06.12