Clouds, Ruskin, modern painting, and global warming

Cloud in Blue Minor, 36″ x 36″, oil on aluminum

“Cloud in Blue Minor”, currently on exhibit at the Greenwich Art Society’s 100th Annual Juried Exhibition (see details below), is the first in a series of Nichols’ cloud paintings on aluminum and copper. “The idea of putting something so ethereal/untouchable onto something so solid from the earth’s crust appealed to that sense of the yin yang of life. I find myself captivated by the pure beauty of the sky and all of its moods and hope that my paintings invite the viewer to look up and ponder.”

In this new millennium with global warming, John Ruskin’s, (19th century art critic), words still hold true – “It is a strange thing how little in general people know about the sky. It is the part of all creation in which nature has done more for the sake of pleasing man(kind), more, for the sole and evident purpose of talking to him and teaching him, than in any other of her works, and it is just the part in which we least attend to her. And yet we never attend to it, we never make it a subject of thought…”

‘OF MODERN LANDSCAPE’ (1843)

Ruskin most aptly puts the attitude of clouds in modern painting: “We turn our eyes from these serene fields and skies of medieval art, to the most characteristic examples of modern landscape. And I believe, the first thing that will strike us, or that ought to strike us, is their cloudiness …Out of perfect light and motionless air, we find ourselves on a sudden brought under somber skies, and into drifting wind; and, with fickle sunbeams flashing in our face, or utterly drenched with sweep of rain, we are reduced to track the changes of the shadows on the grass, or watch the rents of twilight through angry cloud. And we find that whereas all the pleasure of the medieval was in stability, definiteness, and luminousness, we are expected to rejoice in darkness, and triumph in mutability; to lay the foundation of happiness in things which momentarily change or fade; and to expect the utmost satisfaction and instruction from what it is impossible to arrest, and difficult to comprehend.”

 

SKY WARNINGS

Below Ruskin writes about the black skies in England brought on by the burning of coal in the 1800’s. Suffice it to say his warnings are still fitting today with our current threat of global warming…

To read the complete lecture click here for the PDF – 27636_Vict_U08_Ruskin

Excerpts:

JOHN RUSKIN

The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century

Lecture 1-1884

Let me first assure my audience that I have no arrière pensée in the title chosen for this lecture. I might, indeed, have meant, and it would have been only too like me to mean, any number of things by such a title; but, tonight, I mean simply what I have said, and propose to bring to your notice a series of cloud phenomena, which, so far as I can weigh existing evidence, are peculiar to our own times; yet which have not hitherto received any special notice or description from meteorologists. So far as the existing evidence, I say, of former literature can be interpreted, the storm-cloud—or more accurately plague-cloud, for it is not always stormy—which I am about to describe to you, never was seen but by now living, or lately living eyes….

…I should have liked to have blotted down for you a bit of plague-cloud to put beside this; but Heaven knows, you can see enough of it nowadays without any trouble of mine; and if you want, in a hurry, to see what the sun looks like through it, you’ve only to throw a bad half-crown into a basin of soap and water.

Blanched Sun,—blighted grass,—blinded man.—If, in conclusion, you ask me for any conceivable cause or meaning of these things—I can tell you none, according to your modern beliefs; but I can tell you what meaning it would have borne to the men of old time. Remember, for the last twenty years, England, and all foreign nations, either tempting her, or following her, have blasphemed the name of God deliberately and openly; and have done iniquity by proclamation, every man doing as much injustice to his brother as it is in his power to do. Of states in such moral gloom every seer of old predicted the physical gloom, saying, “The light shall be darkened in the heavens thereof, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.”—that the Empire of England, on which formerly the sun never set, has become one on which he never rises.

What is best to be done, do you ask me? The answer is plain. Whether you can affect the signs of the sky or not, you can the signs of the times. Whether you can bring the sun back or not, you can assuredly bring back your own cheerfulness, and your own honesty. You may not be able to say to the winds, “Peace; be still.”

May you find happiness in things which momentarily change or fade and speak out to save our skies and help to reduce the CO2 emissions that are rapidly heating our planet’s atmosphere and putting all of our habitat’s in imminent danger. If we all speak out perhaps the dark clouds, like those of Ruskin’s time, will be a point in history – an averted threat.

‘Cloud in Blue Minor’, Oil on Aluminum, 36″ x 36″,

selected for exhibition at the

Greenwich Art Society
100th Annual Juried Exhibition

Juror: Kelly Baum
Curator Modern and Contemporary Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Exhibition runs April 28th through May 31st
Viewing Hours: Weekdays 10 – 5 PM
Thursdays until 7 PM
Weekends 12 – 4 PM

The Bendheim Gallery of the Greenwich Arts Center
299 Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich, CT
203.629.1533

Free and open to the public

To view the Greenwich Art Society’s Annual exhibit online please visit:

http://greenwichartsociety.org/bendheim100/onehundreth-annual-juried-show.html