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RAY TURNER

by Bill Lasarow




“Study for the Meeting Place,”
o/c, 12 x 16”, 2000.





“Adagio", o/c,
11 x 14", 2000.





"Nocturne", o/c,
42 x 68", 2000.





"Study for the Meeting Place",
o/c, 12 x 16", 2000.
(Diane Nelson Fine Art, Orange County) The golden hues and stepped back views that predominate Ray Turner’s latter day romanticism serve as the currency in a world in which awe is the stock in trade. It doesn’t matter whether we are looking at the forces of nature or of civilization.

In a grandiose little painting like Adagio you might be looking at an erupting volcano or inside a steelworks. Which it might be is not important. The antlike human observers swaying this way and that might be moments from obliteration or the very orchestrators of the scene. The edge conveyed in image after image is that of control or the iminent loss of it, control of outlandish mass and energy. Trains, skyscrapers, fields or hills are seen in well crafted moments, just as their energies are being released or are about to be released.

To be sure, Turner is sufficiently skilled that he does not shuffle these moments from the same deck. Nocturne tilts a sleeping trainyard ever so slightly down through the lower half of its picture plane, the dynamism of forces resting, balanced between the reflected hues of an early morning sun and the contrasting lights and darks of a threatening sky.

Then there are the groups of men gathering in ways that can only be described as sinister. Titles may describe the images as a Greeting or as a Meeting Place, but the choreography is of massive, hunching figures hovering threateningly around a seemingly solitary diminuative victim. The smokey atmosphere distances the action. It is as though you are looking through thick plate glass. Details are not distinct. The central figure in Study for the Greeting is obscured, and may be gripping a stick or a club, but it could just as easily be used against him by the figure to the right.

What is impressively consistent is the orchestration of gesture and atmospheric light. Turner masters these formal components sufficiently well that his paintings convey portentious energy with vivacity and conviction. Until you come to the groups of unsavory figures it is easy to assume this artist is cut from the mold of the Futurists, an enthusiast for the coming Brave New World, aggressively welcoming new unknowns because of, rather than in spite of, their power. With the viewer kept at a distance or divorced from the action, if appears at times benign and at other times quite ominous.

There is yet another side as evidenced by Game at Dusk, a depiction of a baseball contest being held in a meadow. The moment of action is of no apparent importance, and the grand space is in a park or countryside rather than a proper playing field or stadium. This is about nostalgia--for a place, a time, a way of life. The feeling is of loss, and together with the other emotions evoked by this body of work it turns the sense of romantic excess sour. This is a world in which man will struggle to maintain his hold.