His paintings look like improvisations of bottle glass washed upon a beach, swarming dots, shapes like bricks clustered together, loops of string-calligraphy defining shapes like boulders or clouds. While his unit touch is small, sometimes no bigger than a gnat, the effect is of wide and generous scenery. Underneath the playfulness is a serious contemplation, and this comes through.
-ARTnews, December 1969
Theodore (“Ted”) Turner was inspired by scenes from his everyday life - the city streets and neighborhoods of Charlottesville, the lush Virginia countryside and the Virginia Beach area. “I stopped trying to find the perfect landscape or scene and instead I decided just to paint whatever I saw, whatever was in front of me, regardless of the subject matter,” he once said.
Yet Turner was not a realist and the 25 works exhibited in Virginia Vistas demonstrate how he turned recognizable spaces into imaginary scenes.
What remains in all of Turner’s work is a sense of immediacy. The quickness of his images - what some even see as carelessness - to Turner represents spontaneity and purity - a purity of emotion, and a purity of intention. As Turner once said, “It’s not that I could paint, it’s that I had to paint. I was compelled to paint.” Painting is what he most wanted to do, and he wanted to do it all of the time. The energy and desire that all of his work embodies - whether it is through the content, the bold colors, or the gestural brushwork - are ultimately what Turner’s work is about.
Virginia Vistas is part of Old Dominion/New Perspectives, a series of exhibitions and programs focusing on the American South, and is supported by Philip Morris U.S.A. and the Council of VMFA. This exhibition is organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for statewide travel.
Photos: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts