Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Economy

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.

1 comment:

  1. Ok. I'm going to stand before a row of a thousand armed men, sacrificing my life, and say I don't like it.
    I understand it, and all that you're saying. And yes, sometimes, less is more. but personally, sometimes, less isn't enough.

    I think though, that I'm thinking about it in terms of art today, and the fact that it's in the Tate, and I'm so over the minimal. People have taken it too far. Like that belt on a plinth. I need to see some more try-hard art, in order to help me believe that it's not become a lazy 'art' anymore. It's a shame, because I can almost see the beauty in that piece, but I feel it's overshadowed by what I see so much of today. Like I said before, people can explain away wars, and the Devil can explain why evil is good. people can do the same about art. we must be careful.