25 September 2020

J.M.W. Turner, and the shelf of memory

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Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 20 September, 2020, oil on canvas board, 30 X 25 cm


This study is from a few nights ago. This past week we have been blessed with hazy evenings which pleases me to work from. The air has a lot of salt in it, unlike the clear and polished skies which require a rich pigment. Colours used on these evenings are broken even more so than usual so as to unify the relationships with greater subtly. 

This one I liked immediately so I suddenly stopped work on it. I knew it was finished at just the precise moment that it was. As I can easily overwork paintings I am always attentive to the tiny bell inside which gently rings as if in a large cathedral. I can often ignore these moments in the middle of work, but here at least, I am grateful I didn't. After all, does one need to be in a cathedral to hear God?

It is rare when I finish something that I think to myself: "that was really good" without falling down the next day. Usually though, the really great things "I cannot  see" for even weeks or months later on, but this was the exception.

This image reminds me of one of my heroes J.M.W. Turner. I wasn't thinking of him at the time but now I see it so obviously, not only because he still haunts my palette but my daydreams as well. If a writer keeps his favourite authors on a small shelf above his writing desk, then a painter houses his heroes in his paintbox. Memory is everything, I think to myself, every day.

As I have written many times here, Turner's watercolours of the British coastline, along with the Venice lagoon have been seared into my visual memory yet I never think of all this while I am working.  

"Just another day, another dollar" as my uncle Morty used to say.


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