Sarah Coles


Burning-of-the-Houses-of-ParliamentI went to London to see the late Turner exhibition. Oh I loved it, the way he stayed by the sea and saw the waves rushing one way and dissolved into spray by the wind the other way. He saw the energy and life in all things, in the sea, and in the scudding clouds, and in the fires as the House of Lords burnt down. This energy, this change, is History (had to give it an H).

I took off my glasses, and the crowds melded together, like a misty Turner crowd, without individuality, just this rushing presence.

death of actaeonThen there was the death of Actaeon. I knew the same subject by Titian – he sees Diana bathing and furious she turns him into a stag, whereupon he is mauled and killed by his own hounds. Here, everything is changing, the tawny colours of the land and Actaeon himself as he dissolves from one form of life to another, and death. Life in fact.

Hero-And-LeanderOften, as where Hero holds the lamp for Leander, or at Heidelberg, you can see formal lines of pillared temples or buildings but – blackish clouds obscure part of them – it is rational and irrational, ordered energy and blind energy, and the result is spooky. This is our lives. This is why I love Turner. When I see his paintings my own interpretation springs into them – and then, I listen to the (almost invariably boring) audio guide, with its dull resume of what it says is Turner’s meaning. Any genius, like Shakespeare or Turner, is capable of inspiring hundreds of different meanings, unique to the viewer.

Snow-Storm,-Hannibal-and-his-Army-Crossing-the-Alps-1812Then, Turner’s colours. Rembrandt is the only other painter whose colours seem to sparkle this way, iridescent. How did they do it, out of claggy paint? Also, Turner is the painter of nature, yet where is green? Nowhere. Land is shades of tawny orange and dark, and sea every shade of blue and grey.

2011 West Highland Way 023So I came home, where there is little green around. It’s January. Trees are etchings on the sky. Evergreens are not bright, like 011Turner’s very few trees, just smudges f something greenish and greyish and blackish. i lie on bed and watch the sky, the colours changing like Turner’s skies, never for a moment still – the clouds, the times of day (facing east it’s best early morning as the sun rises) but being this country, there’s always the odd cloud and never the bland postcard blue of Mediterranean countries.

IMG_4209Turner everywhere.

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