Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Turner - Snowstorm

I am astonished by the way in which Turner accepts the apparent randomness of the natural elements, and paints them as they are. There is brutal honestly in this work, and Turner gives one an insight into a helpless and unenviable moment; making it tangible for all. The madness of a second in stormy sea is represented as the chilling and terrifying moment that it must be.

Legend has it that Turner undertook a death defying voyage on a ship to experience at first hand, what he was about to render on canvas.

Turner said, "I only painted it because I wished to show what such a scene was like; I got the sailors to lash me to the mast to observe it; I was lashed for four hours and did not expect to escape, but I felt bound to record it if I did. No one has any business to like it."

Contemporaries saw Turner's work as having 'dreamlike' qualities. These 19th century flirtations with metaphor may seems to us now as uninformed, even a tad pretentious, but they contained some insight that is worth commenting on.

Thanks to the likes of Froid and Jung we now have knowledge of dreams as the expression of deep intuitions and buried memories, allowing us to examine Turner's work again and note that his pictures do have the oblique qualities of a dreamlike state. The warped perspectives, blurred focuses, image metamorphosis, and the general feeling of otherness and uneasiness: These are the images of the dreamer, or someone dabbling in hallucinogenic substances.

Within our sub-consciousness mind there are various patterns that pop up time and time again. One of these is the whirl pool or vortex, of which there is a strong suggestion in the Snowstorm. This became a reemerging image in some of Turner's later paintings.

Relax for a moment and allow yourself to be absorbed into the vortex, a scary and dangerous ledge, over which lies the abyss. The visual impact is caressed by the grim tunnel of darkness that leads one to the ships hull, at which point is shot towards the heavens by a band of bright light.


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