Yesterday, I was at an exhibition of Ruskin and Turner. In the accompanying publication Joanna Haigh writes the “The Sun is God” and acknowledges the forces that exist to protect us from the harmful elements of sunlight whilst also allowing us the experience of its beauty, a beauty drawn upon through art in all its forms. “High in the atmosphere (a region known a the stratosphere) oxygen molecules absorb UV, initiating a chain of chemical reactions and producing ozone, which then absorbs UV of slightly longer wavelengths. This process is important because it shields organisms living on the Earth’s surface from radiation which can damage tissue and distort DNA resulting, for example, in skin cancers and cataracts in humans, and harm to crop yields and quality.” (Haigh, 2019, p74). This scientific reminder of the functioning layers of our atmosphere reinforces in our minds a sense of power beyond the world that we know and experience on a daily basis, way above everything here present. We are each of us dependent not only on the sun, but on the protection we are given from it. There is always more to consider.
Ruskin and Turner made works which seemed to capture not only the light but the very atmosphere of a scene in a visual form. Ruskin often acknowledged the inner and outer worlds in his own work, also referring stylistically to the works of Turner which adorned the walls of his room. Stibbon believes that Ruskin’s work is timely for consideration, that it reflects our current thinking about the natural world. In ‘The Artist as Witness’ she writes: “Ruskin makes an imaginative leap between the outside world and the internal psychological landscape. For me, this slippage between the analytical and emotional resonates with contemporary anxieties about our relationship with the environment” (Stibbon, 2019, p101)
For me, it is not anxiety about my relationship with the environment, rather I find confidence in it, drawn in to these moments of gold. The camera image does not do it justice, however. The camera cannot convey the strength of my emotion as I am present in the setting sun. As a tool it at least provides me with an opportunity to try and retain something of that experience, to share it, to hold it for a little while longer.
Cooper, S.F. and Johns, R. (Eds.) (2019) Ruskin, Turner & The Storm (Exhibition publication, York and Kendal) London: Holbertson