I like stories, I am fascinated by the talents and skills of writers but also of music composers, painters, and architects. I am fascinated by the ability of actors and musicians to interpret given works. But do not look for snapshots or documentaries of a scene in my pictures, rather for an echo of stories embedded in interwoven layers that are both real and abstract in the manner of a writer embedding individual scenes in the pages of their book.
I would like to introduce my project dedicated to the great English painter of the Romantic era, J. M. W. Turner. The organisation of the project on Turner, which took almost two years, was, personally, a great challenge for me. Nevertheless, I have been involved in similar projects for quite a while and have practical experience with them. Since 2015 I have been systematically working on projects – first focused on writers (Karel Hynek Mácha, Hans Christian Andersen, Antione de Saint Exupéry) and now on prominent painters (César Manrique, Joseph Mallord William Turner, Joan Miró). I always choose art protagonists who distinctly differ from each other.
In the last five years, a group of people interested in these events has formed around my projects and the ICM & ME photographic techniques in general. It is my endeavour to involve not only photographers but also people interested in other art forms – paintings, graphics, ceramics, poetry, etc. Seven photographers and one painter from the Czech Republic participated in the project on J. M. W. Turner - Miroslava Bedřichová, Jitka Bejdáková, Hana Janíčková, Vladimír Kysela, Lea Luxemburgová, Miroslava Trusková, Břetislav Ulrich a Stanislav Zela.
During the course of the project, we made two visits to the Turner Collection in TATE Britain, spent a week in the Lake District and subsequently also five days in Venice – that is, in two locations representative of the exteriors captured in JMW Turner’s work, including London, where he lived. We literally took thousands of photographs and tried to interpret them in our own individual narratives depending on our individual understanding of this great painter’s work. In this way, more than a hundred artworks were created, 70 of which are presented in our joint e-book and 25 are displayed at our joint exhibition in Prague.
JMW Turner put great effort into approaching complexity in his landscapes; that is, he would often reflect on contemporary development in England and Europe. Turner lived through a time of key social and political changes – the whole Napoleonic era starting with Napoleon entering the political scene and his infamous end in St Helena; he lived through the wars with France and Spain, during his time, the Declaration of Independence was pronounced in America, steam powered railway passenger transportation started, and the first steamship crossed the Atlantic. And Turner was able to respond to all these in his work – through the choice of subjects, colours, symbolism. Besides that, he was the genius who significantly developed and shifted the use of watercolours, including continuous testing of new materials – both paints and paper.
During the course of the project, we made two visits to the Turner Collection in TATE Britain, spent a week in the Lake District and subsequently also five days in Venice – that is, in two locations representative of the exteriors captured in JMW Turner’s work, including London, where he lived.
Lake District – May 2022
The weather was not too good, on the other hand, anyone can take a photo of a beautiful sunset. We travelled through all the main areas of the Lake District, combined lake and seaside landscapes, technical details as well as historical nooks. The Lake District is representative of the typical countryside with lakes that Turner would so frequently paint. We photographed in various places, for instance, near Buttermere, Honister Pass, Whitehaven, Keswick /Derwent Water, Barrow-in Furness, Elter Water, or the Castlerigg stone circle…
Venice – September 2022
In Venice, you realise why Turner was able to incorporate so much space, air transparency and generally lively colours into his works. On our visit to Venice, we focused on the places where Turner actively painted, that is, the islands of the Lagoon, the sunrise and evening views of San Marco across the Lagoon, and on taking photographs of the canals at sunrise. Obviously, we did not avoid the central parts of Venice either, up to the Biennale Gardens where this year’s Biennale Arte was culminating.
The Exhibition “Through the Imaginative Landscape of J. M. W. Turner”
The selection of artworks for the joint exhibition in Prague was carried out in the following manner: First, each member of the group chose ten works that they wanted to present in our joint e-book. Subsequently, the gallery curator, Mrs Vlasta Čiháková Noshiro, chose those works which she wanted to present in the gallery. The Gallery of Art Critics is a prestigious gallery which specialises in paintings and so the opportunity to display our photographs there is absolutely unique for us!
The official exhibition opening took place on December 15th in Prague. The exhibition will be shown until January 15th, 2023. Nevertheless, already during the course of the exhibition, we were contacted by other potential exhibition organisers, so it is most likely that the exhibition will be shown in other cities as well. Now, we would like to introduce one work by each of the authors with their own commentary.
I have seen and visited only a small part of the region that Turner would so frequently visit and paint. I composed the final collection from photographs that were taken by chance, so to say, in moments when I forgot about the project – surprised by the calmness that the Turnerian, vast and raw places could bring about in me. The presented photograph is called Bezčasí 3 (Timelessness 3) and was taken in the Lake District, namely in Drigg; just like the majority of pictures in this collection. It can be seen here:
Turner’s canvases can be recognised at first sight. The unmistakable colour range with the dominance of golden ochres, yellows and turquoise blues, his brushwork - rather liberal, from free to wildly unrestrained, movement, excitement, light effects and fog… I focused on Venice. It might occur to us that any human endeavour will eventually be devoured by nature and returned to its original state as though it had never existed. Yet, it is worth fighting, creating freely with a swing, and courage, move forward, growing, ripen, just like Turner did, and it does not matter that it might not last forever. If it speaks to contemporaries and enriches them, it suffices, and even if it didn’t, the reward is in the author’s contemplation and expression of his conclusions.
I admire J.M.W. Turner for his brilliant work with colours and light. My photograph “Jarní” (Spring) was inspired by his light watercolours that captured the English countryside. I tried to capture the atmosphere of the lake district flooded by early morning light in springtime.
In this particular project, my choice was to follow the line reflecting industrial development because Turner often dealt with the subject of the Industrial Revolution, and I found it interesting to push this theme almost ad absurdum. In principle, I wanted to look at the English/Venetian landscape and introduce industrial connotations in it from this day, though. The picture We Stand in Desolate Splendor is the main one in my project and represents for me Turner’s role in the development of society as the “Witness of Desire and Messiah of Light”. It is a collage of takes from London where Turner lived. My whole project can be seen at:
The fascinating eye of the storm that does not let you look away. You can only observe how the sky takes in the sea, and the water takes in the sky. And then, the golden touch of sun appears, an illusion of land, of a solid point on the surface. Once again, the mass rolls over, and the fleeting spectacle is gone. Perhaps that image is just the iris without a pupil. You blink, and the dancing light will enter you once and forever.
In his paintings, Turner captured both the wild countryside and urban landscapes, events from the early days of the Industrial Revolution, but also unrest in the world… Our generation finds itself in the middle of turbulent development – We observe changes in weather, mild winters, more frequent tornadoes, violent storms, and floods. On the other hand, there are droughts, rivers drying out, melting glaciers, rainforests are being cut and burnt down… Where is our horizon of events? With my picture, I venerate nature that we are so often indifferent to, but which is beyond us, outside of us, it can destroy us, and we will bow to it in awe.
I discovered JMW Turner for myself many years ago, and I still admire his paintings and watercolours. Yet it has never occurred to me to reflect his works in my photography. Eventually, it happened, though, when, by coincidence, I joined this project.
When taking and editing photographs, I did not follow a clear set plan but worked intuitively – I let the landscapes inspire and guide me, being influenced only by my prior knowledge of Turner’s work. “Derwent Water”: I’d say this photograph not only captures the beauty of nature but also insinuates the dark forces in it.
Many years ago, there were those who were worried that photography might replace painting. It did not happen. In many ways, it can supplement and support it. Many famous painters worked from photographs, and today, photographers challenge themselves to make works that resemble paintings on canvas. To give up accurate realism and sharpness and to offer a creative interpretation in the world of pixels, zeros and ones. Neither paper nor the shiny screen can replace a coarse canvas in its three-dimensionality and smell of turpentine. Can this be done? Will anyone take an interest in it?
e-book “Through the Imaginative Landscape of J.M.W. Turner”
The book summarises our trip in J. M. W. Turner’s tracks and can be downloaded for free at:
It is in Czech, nevertheless, there are more than 100 photographs – final works by the individual team members as well as pictures documenting the journeys within the project
Blog, dedicated to the project on J.M.W. Turner
Selected blog posts (EN) can be found at:
We hope that our project has been of interest to you. We would especially like to thank Graham Cook, who willingly spent his time with us on one of our visits to TATE Britain, which we highly appreciate!
ps: Actually, my Turner has been internationally awarded, below is the table of silver selection from the New York Photography Awards 2022.