Seeing the Turner exhibit for the second time I began to notice things in his work that I had completely missed the first time around. It made me think about the way that we see things – the everyday in our lives, the people, and our surroundings. Mostly, though – what we don’t see, and how we rarely give consideration or inquire what lay beneath the surface.
My initial trip through the gallery, I was taken with the breadth of Turner’s work, the saturation and delicacy of colour, the incredible light, the journey of the waves. I was awed by the idea that he had painted these through seeing, not by snapping a photograph, but by the experience of noticing and feeling the diversities and intensities of the water, the light, the danger, and the beauty. His paintings are so sensory in that way.
But, Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) – The Morning after the Deluge – Moses Writing the Book of Genesis captivated me on my second visit. I stood before it. Others came, looked, discussed, and contemplated. I was planted. My eyes roving the painting following the story of the flood – discovering the layers expressing beliefs that both spiritually and artistically swirl in impressions and hues of yellow, red and blue. It was actually worship. It had impact. It reached me. It had the intended effect – transitioning me from the bursts of hope and prayer in the brilliance of yellows, to the melancholy and anguish of blues.
This morning, as if a painting out my window I notice the yellow brick of the house beyond the iron fence now visible through the architecture of naked trees at the back of the garden. A bulb still on from the night. A raccoon, misplaced, edging down the rain stained bark like an engorged inchworm. The grey sky hanging still, like a hand placed across my back as I am walking. Who is the woman that rolled up her blinds? I knew that she had opened her fridge from that white light that fanned a triangle across her windowpane – probably milk for cereal or coffee. My own red teacup with doodled flowers and dots, the brew already cold, I’ll have to put it in the microwave.
This is what Turner does. He inclines us to notice – to challenge our assumptions, to experience the story of his paintings and turn it back on ourselves – our view, perceptions, and deceptions.