The thought-provoking exhibition Hockney on Turner Watercolours*, just ended at Tate Britain, with a fascinating core of paintings selected by David Hockney, prompts many responses. Perhaps this is a good time to recall the watercolours of a contemporary master in that demanding medium. Petar Tale, the Montenegrin born-Norwegian artist has executed thousands of watercolours, among major works in other media, during his considerable career.

It might be surprising to compare his paintings with those of Turner. They certainly have shared subjects in landscape painting - the focus here is on sun, storms and mountains. However with very different aims the two artists, not surprisingly, achieve contrasting outcomes. Turner’s stunning late watercolours anticipate significant 20C movements in art while Tale’s work, often measuring 1 by 1 ½ metres, demonstrates that the ‘golden age of water-colour’, accomplished by a remarkable artist, remains alive and, more to the point, kicking in the 21C.

Turner - The Blue Rigi 1842

The Blue Rigi, recently saved for the nation, is acknowledged to be one of Turner’s masterpieces in watercolour – dazzlingly evocative it sublimely conjures up all the warmth and beauty of a glorious Italian dawn.

Tale - Great Storm 1996

In Great Storm the shared parallel here is clearly the mountain/iceberg form, presented from a corresponding stance. However Tale, expertly harnessing the 20C black palette, with bleak hints of indigo in the water and a fading glimmer of ochre in the sky, creates a very different awesome and emblematic beauty. His painting is a visualization of powerfully disturbing menace and danger as the lashing elements wreak their vengeance on a seemingly passive, numbed mind. JW

Visions of the Sun»

* The B.P. Exhibition
Hockney on Turner Watercolours
The Clore Galleries, Tate Britain 2007- February 2008

Turner - The Blue Rigi 1842, 29.5 x 45 cm
Turner - The Blue Rigi 1842, 29.5 x 45 cm magnify

Tale - Great Storm 1996, 55 x 75 cm
Tale - Great Storm 1996, 55 x 75 cm magnify