In Which James Mallord William Turner Is Nowhere In The Aria

Turner at the Met

by Will Hubbard

J. M. W. Turner
July 1, 2008–September 21, 2008
The Tisch Galleries, 2nd floor

A small fishing boat about to be tossed onto the shore by a violent, confused wave. Or maybe the boat will not smashed. Such is the tedious ambiguity deliciously attractive to the young.

He was 20 years old at its conception. The blue pall of the seascape, from memory, not a photograph. A plastic plaque: “the contemporary vogue for moonlit imagery.” Contemporary vogue for moonlit imagery? Another painting in the room is entitled “Sheerness as seen from the Nore.” It simply must be a spoonerism.

Whether it be the members of Odysseus’ crew or merchants pounding fish-heads on the smoky Thames, these beings are phantoms, half-present, weak embodiments of former ambitions, the beacons of a collective past. Even the living recall the morbid angels of Blake—seething, suffering arias of consecrated flesh.

He turns to the light, the morning and afternoon and setting sun. Always distant, it makes all ether an X, a joke of perspective.

When the water of the sea and the water hanging over the sea veil the light, they break into vectors that actually move. Composition can no longer be a trick—careers were born in this idea, and in the apprehension of this idea.

Still later, the sun is a funnel drawing the eye infinitely away from life. Death on a pale horse—to die on a pale horse, to be visited by death riding on his back on the shoulders of a horse hardly intelligible for all the vile terror.

To approximate oil painting with watercolor—to approximate watercolor in oils. To paint “not so much the objects he saw as the light which played around them.” Finally, utter abstractions, save in each the ghostly outline of an animate form—the suggestion of a calf makes a pool of water, cliff beyond; a ring of huddled forms makes a beach and the cold.

Will Hubbard is the contributing editor to This Recording. He tumbls, but never reblogs. He is the editor-in-chief of Capgun magazine.



It’s Alright (Ray Charles cover)” – Karen Dalton (mp3)

“Run Tell Major” – Karen Dalton (mp3)

“Darlin’ Corey” – Karen Dalton (mp3)

“Blues on the Ceiling” – Karen Dalton (mp3)

“How Did the Feeling Feel To You” – Karen Dalton (mp3)

“Prettiest Train” – Karen Dalton (mp3)

“In the Evening” – Karen Dalton (mp3)


You must examine the wackness.

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Impotent Desire: There Will Be Blood & No Country For Old Men

7 thoughts on “In Which James Mallord William Turner Is Nowhere In The Aria

  1. Thank you so much for all of the recent Karen Dalton tracks! I love the intimacy of her live performances!

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