Turner, Seidel, Virgin & Rydges @ Canberra – One Night Stand

J.M.W. Turner, Venice, the Bridge of Sighs, exhibited 1840 Photo: © Tate, 2013 courtesy National Gallery of Australia

Running, not walking away from the horrors of kitchen renovation, I boarded a Virgin Australia flight to Canberra.

Met by my gal pal at the airport we segued on down to a Manuka coffee shop for an espresso before bathing in the glorious glow generated by the paintings of J.M.W. Turner currently being exhibited at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra

Joseph Mallord William Turner (bit of a mouthful, but I guess his mates called him Joe) was born in London in 1775. His artistic talent, evident from an early age, he matured into a painter whose use of perspective and colour in the light filled canvases he created was a major influence on his contemporaries and continues to influence and inform artists today.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) The Fall of an Avalanche in the Grisons exhibited 1810 Photo: © Tate, 2013 courtesy National Gallery of Australia

Turner’s colour theory and his practice of experimenting with new pigments (chrome yellow, a favourite) resulted in landscapes where nature was recorded with a dazzling light filled palette of golden yellows, greens, blues and shades of grey darkening to midnight blacks that resonated across canvases of romantic powerful imagery – truly an artist for all seasons and times.

The NGA exhibition, Turner From The Tate: The Making of a Master, comprises 40 oils and 70 works on paper.

It opened June 1 and will run through until September 8.

The curators have chosen Indian red, dark green and yellow interiors to offset the paintings and it works well, the final room in the exhibition a showcase for Turner’s sea paintings.

Engraved by W. Holl, Portrait of Turner, published 1859-61 Photo @ Tate, 2013

Before I report on Turner’s major works there are some little gems I’d like to mention; small watercolours done by J.M.W. for inclusion as illustrations in an anthology of nineteenth century poet, Samuel Roger’s work – quietly exquisite, you don’t want to miss them.

Particularly influenced by a painter from the seventeenth century, Claude Lorrain (1600-1682), Turner’s interest in the Old Masters is evident in his work. Rome, from the Vatican, circa 1820, along with other works executed in the Classicism style, presents a showcase for Turner’s perspective skills and his detailed architectural mastery of the genre.

Turner’s visit to the European Alps in 1802, sparked a lifelong interest in the Alps and mountains per se. Inspired by Nature’s breathtaking panorama of peaks, gorges and valleys he created a body of work that is difficult to capture in words – vivid, luminous, sublime all of these were responses I felt when I walked around the exhibition.

A magical experience, the canvases that induced in me the deepest sense of wonder and awe along with a tingle from my toes to the top of my head were those where Turner experimented with colour, light and abstract shapes.

The mark of a master artist is the ability to dot, dab and daub in such a way that the viewer is spellbound and I was.

Move away from a canvas and the rippling strands of colour and atmospheric light changed the perspective – absolutely marvellous.

J.M.W. Turner, Waves Breaking on a Lee Shore at Margate (Study for 'Rockets and Blue Lights'), circa 1840. Photo: © Tate, 2013 courtesy National Gallery of Australia

During Turner’s lifetime he was often condemned by art critics for lack of technique; critics complained subjects were unrecognisable, canvases unfinished.

Turner though, knew the lasting worth of his paintings and when he died in 1851, he gifted much of his work to the British people.

What a guy, what a gift! And what a gift the NGA has given Australians by bringing the exhibition to Canberra. Staging the Turner Exhibition has been an expensive exercise for the NGA so, if you can, take advantage of their gift by going to the exhibition.

Booked into Rydges, Capital Hill (they have an offer which covers accommodation and NGA Turner Exhibition tickets) we relaxed until it was time to head to The Janet Seidel Trio concert at the Canberra Southern Cross Club.

Janet, described as ‘Australia’s First Lady Of Jazz’ and the guys, bassist, brother David and guitarist, Chuck Morgan are simply sensational.

Janet, able to sing in a variety of styles, close your eyes and it could be Blossom Dearie, Doris Day or Billie Holliday, often plays piano when the trio perform.

This concert though, was an evening spin off from their daytime ukulele workshop with the Canberra Ukulele Club. The resurgence of interest in this plucky little instrument has prompted Chuck Morgan, a wonderful exponent of the ukulele, with Janet and David to run master classes.

The Canberra Ukulele Club played a set with the trio – Chuck conducting, Janet singing and plinka-plunking along, David on bass and with four club soloists, a huge amount of fun.

The enjoyment level high, it was great to hear around thirty people of all different ages blending in so well with the trio.

Not much else to say except that a Janet Seidel Trio concert is always a pleasure, great singing, great music. These guys travel, so checkout Janet’s website for performance dates – you could be lucky, the trio might be coming to a neighbourhood near you, real soon.

Dinner at a Thai restaurant and it was time to call it a night. Happily snoozing on Rydges lovely, lovely beds, I awoke in plenty of time for the short trip to Canberra Airport.

Virgin Australia did it again – my return trip to Melbourne, handled with smooth efficiency by helpful flight attendants.

Perfection, hard to come by, for 24 hours in Canberra it was mine.

Janet Walker, Guest Author, The Culture Concept Circle 2013

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