Turner: Northern Exposure and Force of Nature at Harrogate Mercer Art Gallery

PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 January 2020

Scarborough ,c.1811. Turner, Joseph Mallord William 1775-1851. Tate. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest

Scarborough ,c.1811. Turner, Joseph Mallord William 1775-1851. Tate. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest

Copyright © Tate / Tate Images

The work of JMW Turner and those he inspired has arrived in Harrogate…

Anna Lilleengen, who creates artwork using an antique cameraAnna Lilleengen, who creates artwork using an antique camera

2020 really is all about the artist JMW Turner - the new £20 note bearing his portrait and artwork launches on February 20 and the extraordinary Turner: Northern Exposure exhibition has just opened at Harrogate's Mercer Art Gallery.

Born in 1775 in Covent Garden, Joseph Mallord William Turner worked initially as an architectural draughtsman, yet fuelled by ambition, his self-funded trip north in 1797 to sketch the region's abbeys, castles, churches and minsters was life changing. Quite unexpectedly to the young Turner, the further north he travelled, the more he was exposed to the region's weather, light and majestic landscapes - ethereal qualities that defined his art and launched his career as an artist.

'The north really opened up to Turner the possibilities of serious landscape', explains Professor David Hill, Turner expert and co-curator of the exhibition at the Mercer Art Gallery.

'He was exposed to the wilder weather and more vivid conditions of the world of the north, from the rain sweeping over the moors, sunlight bursting through the clouds, to the mist in the valleys. These were scenes that he not only sketched and painted but which totally captured his imagination, prompting his return to the north again and again throughout his life.

Ed Klutz at workEd Klutz at work

'So he set off on this trip north as an architectural draughtsman, but returned a 'poet of the landscape sublime'. Turner thoroughly believed that this tour of the north in 1797 was the origin of his success.'

Retracing Turner's footsteps through the artworks, paintings, sketches and colour studies he created at each geographical stage of his original journey, Northern Exposure incorporates many of the artworks he created during his time in Yorkshire.

'This is the only place on the tour that St Agatha's Abbey, Easby is being shown,' says Professor Hill. 'This is one of Turner's most critically acclaimed masterpieces. It captures beautifully not only the light and shadow but the humidity.'

Emerson Mayes 'Heading Down Parliament Street, Monday Night'Emerson Mayes 'Heading Down Parliament Street, Monday Night'

Running concurrently with Turner: Northern Exposure is Force of Nature which combines the work of five highly respected, contemporary Yorkshire artists who also share a fascination with the landscape and architecture of the north.

'I'm not sure there is a contemporary landscape painter, in fact any painter, working today that hasn't in some way been influenced by Turner and his work - either consciously or subconsciously,' confides Emerson Mayes, the award winning painter and print maker who has created brand new art works in response to Turner for the exhibition.

In relation to his Harrogate Nocturne series Emerson adds: 'It would be fascinating if Turner was working today as I'm sure he would have found our towns and cities at night, with all their bright lights, too good a subject not to paint.'

In complete contrast to Turner's watercolours and Emerson's oil paintings, one of the other artists featured is Anna Lilleengen, who creates her artwork using an antique camera dating from the very earliest days of photography. 'I make my own negatives to fit in the camera's original 1870s plate holders,' she explains.

'These still contain some of the chemical used to develop the images by its Victorian owners. Now crystallised, it sometimes draws lines and marks across the images, or at other times there may be eerie light flares in the pictures - I enjoy these elements of chance and serendipity in creating an image that is 'painted by light'!'

Turner: Northern Exposure and Force of Nature runs until April 19. 

harrogate.gov.uk/Turner

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