Before getting into the course proper we are asked to attempt one of the basic techniques – to annotate an image. I’ve found it an interesting challenge on a few fronts.
Step one was to choose an image. A selection of works by J.M.W. Turner are on tour from the Tate, but won’t be visiting Sydney. In April mum and I are going for a long weekend to Adelaide (around 1,200 km each way) to see the exhibition TURNER FROM THE TATE: THE MAKING OF A MASTER. More information about the exhibition can be found at www.artgallery.sa.gov.au/agsa/home/Exhibitions/Turner_from_the_Tate.html. One of the paintings included in the show is The Fall of an Avalanche in the Grisons. I decided it would be interesting to look at that in my annotation, knowing I would see the original just a few weeks later.
The next challenging was finding an image to print and work from. Now the easy way would have been to use the high quality image that’s on the art gallery site at http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au:8080/agsa/home/Media_Centre/2013/Turner/Images/TURNER_The_Fall_of_an_Avalanche_in_the_Grisons_N00489.jpg, but for some reason I can’t now explain I chose to do a search. On the right are two slivers of photos I found on the internet. The lefthand version came from http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/william-turner/the-fall-of-an-avalanche-in-the-grisons, the righthand version from http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-the-fall-of-an-avalanche-in-the-grisons-n00489. The colour and clarity of the two images are quite different. The version from wikipaintings seemed more colourful, crisp and clear so I printed that out.
I was careful to use just a sliver of the images, figuring that using less than 10% of each in the context of a student discussion would not infringe copyright. I’m experimenting with a different way to show the final annotation here on a public blog. Posting the full image direct from one of the sources would be clearly unacceptable. I think even a photo of the annotation which itself includes a full printout of the painting’s photo with my notes and scribbles on it might still be a grey area of copyright. So below is a photo of the annotation with a quick, nasty and inaccurate sketch by me covering the image printout which is actually taped onto the page. I’m hoping this will make my discussion of the annotation clearer while steering clear of any copyright issues. (Edited to add: a copy of the image is available in a password restricted area here).
I chose to work on an A3 page. A4 seemed a bit limiting. At the top is basic information about the artwork – an oil painting on canvas that was first exhibited in 1810.
Around the image are notes based on what I could see. I’ve also used a tracing paper overlay to identify lines and shapes – they don’t line up well with my later sketch reproduction. In the lower area, below the line, are some notes and information from a couple of sources I looked at after recording my own observations.
Much as I love typing in this blog it doesn’t seem a sensible use of time to type up my notes here. Briefly – a great sense of space and depth; very dynamic with the use of angular diagonal lines; I’m uncertain about colour (see comments above) but there’s a wide tonal range; it feels like there are lines of force converging to crush the hut – and in the the large image available at http://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au:8080/agsa/home/Media_Centre/2013/Turner/Images/TURNER_The_Fall_of_an_Avalanche_in_the_Grisons_N00489.jpg there appears to be some very energetic brushwork showing the exact moment, the precise point of impact where the hut explodes under the blow of the falling rock.
In the lower section I’ve noted that this is an example of Romantic era sublime landscape – not a dreamy pastoral, but instead triggering feelings of awe and terror. One article I read, discussing a different Turner painting, included “… the play of darkness and lightness is clearly symbolic of the transition from life to death…” (1) and I wonder if that is the intention here too. Could there be a spiritual dimension to the narrative? On the Tate website the catalogue entry for this painting includes some lines that were exhibited with the painting, including “towering glaciers fall … And the toil, the hope of man – o’erwhelms” (2) and there is certainly the feeling of tiny man and his brief life, puny and defenseless against the vast might of nature.
(1) McDonald, J. (2013) Out of the Darkness. The Sydney Morning Herald: Spectrum 2-3 Feb. pp 6-7.
(2) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-the-fall-of-an-avalanche-in-the-grisons-n00489/text-catalogue-entry [Accessed 14 Mar 2013].