J.M.W. Turner

Friedrich, Constable, and Turner by Chris Hall

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, 1818

The Romantic artists were my first love.  In them I found spiritual nourishment and a companion to my own turbulent soul.  I first discovered them as a high school student, in a book I found in my public library.  It was a great place to begin my artistic journey of self-discovery.  

Caspar David Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich – Friedrich’s work produces in me a sense of wonder.  Nature becomes a source of contemplation and a portal to notions of the sublime.  And by portal, I mean that literally.  Many of his works show a figure standing with their backs toward us as if in a doorway.  We are invited to follow.

John Constable

John Constable – Constable’s work is hit or miss for me.  He produces such wonders as Hadleigh Castle, 1829 which is a nice meditation upon ruins, but he also makes such unintentially comical pieces as Portrait of Master Crosby, 1808, from which I was inspired to create my drawing Backwards Butt Boy.  However, something happened around 1822, when Constable began making cloud studies.  Constables cloud studies are a profound meditation on the transient nature of life, as symbolized by changeable nature of the skies.  Each cloud study has an emotive character of its own, little personalities and temperaments.  Divorced of the ground, necessary for landscapes, these skyscapes almost become little abstractions on their own.

J.M.W. Turner

J.M.W. Turner – Turner was a profound master of the sublime.  Like Constable’s cloud studies, the compositions in his works are almost proto-abstraction, all over swirls of weather, fire, and natural phenomenon.

Search for the Sublime by Chris Hall

I long for a spiritual revival in Contemporary Art.  The last time a formal movement championed this was Abstract Expressionism/Art Informal in the 1940’s and 50’s.  The sublime works of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and others was a refreshing antidote to the dead, propagandistic art coming out of the Eastern Bloc at the time (though it was recently declassified that the CIA secretly championed the movement to help attract intellectuals to the freedom of expression tagline, this, despite the fact that many of the artists were radicals and former Communists).  

But in today’s Contemporary Art theory, which is largely Marxist in nature, there is no room for religion or spirituality.  They too often confuse the sins of organized religion with spirituality, which is more personal in nature.  To these critics, spirituality is considered anachronistic and kitsch (not so much dangerous, because danger is sexy and inviting).  I would like to see more spirituality in art, more of the traditional notions of the beautiful and the sublime, such as described by the philosopher Edmund Burke, but interpreted through a new, contemporary lense.  Humanity needs this nourishment.  We drink eight glasses of water a day and still thirst for the infinite.  

 

Click on the images below for larger size and image details

Anselm Kiefer,  Let the Earth Be Opened and Send Forth a Savior , 2005

Anselm Kiefer, Let the Earth Be Opened and Send Forth a Savior, 2005