|J.M.W. Turner's Boats at Sea, photo courtesy of Tate|
One of the best paintings at Tate's Watercolour show was Turner's Boats at Sea, a ruthless, elementary yet evocative dash-off that nevertheless perfectly captured the architecture and tone of ships sailing as the sun began to set.
It is usually more difficult to express an idea in the simplest of terms than it is to 'throw the kitchen sink' at it - one need only listen to a politician or curator ad-libbing for confirmation of that. The great challenge of abstraction is to create real meaning from the least possible resources; what can be achieved with a precisely chosen word, a strategic fold or perfectly weighted brush stroke?
Turner provides a surprising, and surprisingly contemporary, example.