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Spirituality, J.M.W. Turner, landscape art, novels about artists, light, creativity, The Trilogy of Remembrance.

J.M.W. Turner

#spirituality #art #novels #art #synchronicity #creativity #landscape #painting

In my blog post, “Synchronicity and Creativity”, I talked about one quality any truly great artist must possess. Primarily, she or he must have access to that vast “library” of the human experience found in the unconscious and the collective unconscious. That is where all the material with which to create something new lies. The great artist may have fewer “filters” blocking his awareness of what lies beyond this here and now world. Also sensitivity to synchronicities–those stunning coincidences–could be a very great help. They may signal paths to great creativity.

J.M.W Turner was a British landscape painter who lived from 1775 to 1851 and became know as the “painter of light”. He certainly had that special openness or access to the unconscious world and with great skill, he communicated to us the unique way he saw the world primarily with his use of light.

A great artist breaks ground. Creativity brings something new to the world. It’s as if Turner stripped off our “filters” and let us see the world in his own unique way.

Just watch this movie trailer, “Mr. Turner,” which captures the essence of this artist who could make people see the world in a new way with his light and his spirit.  A line from the movie? “The universe is chaotic, Mr. Turner, and you make us see it! You are a man of great vision.”

Take a moment to enjoy the trailer for Mr. Spall’s Turner. You won’t regret it.

Just how was Turner such an influence? Just think about his light! If you’ve ever taken photos on a grey, drab day, you’ve thought— everything looks so dull and flat! I need more light.

Spirituality, J.M.W. Turner, landscape art, novels about artists, light, creativity, The Trilogy of Remembrance.

This one is mine! Flat isn’t it?


And, of course, that’s true. Light helps create the shape of the phenomenal here and now everyday world with shadow and light. Without light, there would be no life and no art.




What sort of light does he use?

Of course, there is the light which the painter creates with his brush to illuminate the scene. It looks like he or she stood on a path in the countryside and used light coming over the shoulder to illuminate the scene like Constable’s below.

Spirituality, J.M.W. Turner, landscape art, novels about artists, light, creativity, The Trilogy of Remembrance.

John Constable






But I’m thinking of a different sort of light—a light of the spirit, which magically seems to come from within the painting. This kind of light beckons us and transports us to other places or dimensions and even other states of consciousness. The question is—how is this done? Is it a special technique? Probably so, but I’m not so sure it’s only a question of technique.

Of course, the painter must be skilled in his craft but, the light I’m thinking of, is created more by his vision, the thoughts and feelings of the artist and his ways of perceiving his world. It’s what the artist puts, of himself or finds within himself, into the painting. Maybe we could call it his or her spirit.

Not everyone responds to such an artist’s work in the same way. The special light might resonate with one viewer and not with another. Why? My guess is that the respective natures and emotional states of artist and viewer somehow complement each other and resonate in some wordless communication. Some were stunned by the power of Turner’s insight. Others thought he was losing his eyesight.

Turner is considered the master of light. He’s really in the limelight now at the Tate Britain and in the film with Timothy Spall as Turner. How did Turner’s change everything? How did he revolutionize art? At a glance, it’s apparent that he found his way to Impressionism [a style of the late 19th century] many years beforehand.

Apparently, his spirit was swept with grand emotions and he was determined to convey them with a fiery passion. He was particularly attracted to sublime or awesome aspects of nature [storms and calm] and contemporary industrial life [steam engines and other equipment].

He was fascinated with the commencement of the industrial revolution when the country was bursting with railways and factories. Another very powerful influence in his life was nature. Just think of  the turbulent seas and skies he depicted where all manner of battles of human beings played out. In his paintings, you can experience first hand the “feel” of nature. These grand forces left him awe struck. In order to express his feelings, he once lashed himself to the masthead of a ship and journeyed out into a storm! All to experience the force of nature.

But let’s find some examples in his work to show what I’m talking about.

Spirituality, J.M.W. Turner, landscape art, novels about artists, light, creativity, The Trilogy of Remembrance.

Battle of Trafalgar, Turner

In The Battle of Trafalgar, not only does the light seem to be coming from within the painting, it also appears as an active force in the work participating with his subject matter. In his composition, the brilliant light is an energizing force. It’s not just passively illuminating the ships clashing in battle. This force of nature enters the fray as a third combatant in the battle between the English and the French.

Spirituality, J.M.W. Turner, landscape art, novels about artists, light, creativity, The Trilogy of Remembrance.

Snow Storm, Turner

The same can be said for Snow Storm. Hannibal’s army is crossing the Alps in a snow storm. See the desperate and awe struck figures huddled in the foreground? The snow is whipped up by the light, in vicious deadly curves ready to hit the poorly clad, defenseless troops. Man against man is one thing but nature against man is quite another. But then there is the sun. Glimmering and glowing, it burns its way through the snow as if preparing to incinerate the troops.

Spirituality, J.M.W. Turner, landscape art, novels about artists, light, creativity, The Trilogy of Remembrance.

The Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore, Turner

In this painting, there is a different light. Not only does it seem soft, gently spreading across a serene landscape, it seems to make the landscape itself glow in an other worldly and perhaps ancient light. Here in the sky, with the light filtering through the trees, I might well think this light comes from within the painting of the land and the figures. In almost any of Turner’s paintings, light was the most important feature—not just illuminating the phenomenal world, but adding to it as an active participant shaping the landscape itself. No wonder, on his death bed he famously declared “The sun is God.”

Why am I so fascinated with the paintings of Turner? If you love art, as I do, you want to understand how great painters see the world. You want to share in their vision and their creativity.

What about synchronicity you ask? At the time Turner was experimenting with his light, a Scottish scientist, James C. Maxwell was developing a theory of light that it results from a swirling motion of electrical and magnetic fields bringing together electricity, magnetism and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. And what were we just saying about the active force of light in his paintings? Turner was not only alive to these scientific ideas, he was putting them in practice.

Unfortunately, I have no skill in painting. But I have written a trilogy about a landscape artist, Alexander Wainwright, who is in constant search of his muse. He’s convinced that there is something just behind the phenomenal world which beckons him and which he tries to express in his art with light.

If you’d like to meet Alex just check out the carousel below and buy one [or all] of the novels in The Trilogy of Remembrance [The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde and Night Crossing.]

Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing. Presently, The Drawing Lesson is a Wattpad Featured novel which you can read in it’s entirety right here Wattpad.com 

Your thoughts on Turner, creativity, light?

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