Day 1247 – Turner @ The Met
Oh my GOD.
A very good man who is no longer part of this earth once told me how he enjoyed going to the Tate and cursing under his breath at the later works of William Turner. “You fucker… you damn fucker… how did you do that? How did you see that?” The man i mention was a painter who at some point in his life chose to devote his life to teaching art at a western PA liberal arts college rather than pursue his art full time. The larger world’s loss was my gain.
We all need to revisit Turner from time to time. Anybody, ANY-BODY, who feels Turner is not relevant because he is not new, not contemporary, not of the past five minutes, is a fool; another consumer in an endless parade of consumers.
Jackson Pollock could render a scene with a pencil that would rival a black and white photograph. In fact his early skill as an illustrator was so well regarded the assumption was he’d get on swimmingly as a commercial artist depicting frozen moments of modern life. Yeah. FUCK THAT. Pollock, as we all know, ended up going in an entirely different direction. One could assert his inner self-destructiveness led him to brutalize his canvases; laying them on the floor of his barn/studio while he flung, splattered and poured pigment into them. Mix that personality with alcohol and you have the makings of a career cut short.
Turner, being of traditional English temperament, never discarded the brush and he never flung his canvases upon the floor, but he was pursued by demons as was Pollock. He found he was unable to quell these demons by revisiting the same scene, the same inspiration, the same reality, over and over. He became the fire-master, the architect of storms, and deconstructor of what we call reality.
I present two examples – first “The Grand Canal” a largely bucolic painting rendered with detail finer than a Zeiss Distagon on a Hasselblad shooting Fuji Velvia.
Later, after the reproduction of reality became, i’m guessing, physically painful – “The Snowstorm”
And for this departure from accepted parameters of “The Academy” he was castigated and marginalized. Sure later he re-emerged as a freakin’ genius ahead of his time, but at first he was nearly cast out of the precious academy as they felt their aesthetic authority melting away.
Hello? Angry youth? Feeling misunderstood? Try this for a change…. go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City while this show is available. Devote two hours (DO IT… this guy devoted his life) and proceed through the exhibition. Read the big printing on the walls. Read it aloud if you find it hard to start new lines that are feet long. Then go buy some Sex Pistols at Tower Records. Get IT? GET IT? Still feel misunderstood? Still feel life’s unfair? Well, then DO something about it. Bottom line: there isn’t life, then work. There’s work, then there’s death. Sooner you make peace with this concept the more you’ll get done, the better you’ll feel, and just possibly you won’t depart this world having left if worse than when you entered it.