Mountains are often very boring to photograph, especially in winter, because they’re white on white on more white and their scale, their enormity, their eternal beauty is often lost.
Mountains are very difficult to paint correctly. A friend of mine who lives in the Alps is always ready to point out artistic mistakes that reveal the artist had no knowledge of how a mountain shoulder or ridge had been shaped by tectonic shifts, earthquakes, and millions of years of tear and wear. It can be tearfully painful for a professional mountaineer to see artists deforming nature.
Mountains are very difficult to establish a relationship with. Men can climb mountains, litter their tops with cans of coke and cigarette butts but when mountains decide to severe the relationship, they simply kill men.
Let’s watch a man-to-mountain relationship, from outside, at a safe distance. We’d need to climb a little up this mountain top for seats at the stalls:
What we see there is a bowl with perfect snow:
It is not a static picture. We’d have to look closer to see dynamics in it.
This is a grassy slope. Cows don’t go there in summer, so grass grows long, which makes it easy for snow to slide down in winter. You see, the slab of snow that slided down in the big avalanche left almost nothing in its wake:
When the avalanche stops, the snow often gets compressed so hard it becomes concrete. An unfortunate skier can’t get out from under the snow mass, even if it is only a few dozen centimetres deep.
Now you can appreciate the
strength of character utter stupidity of skiers who decided to play with the mountain choosing the path between two avalanches.
What’s even more dumb, is stopping on the slope with other skiers starting directly above. If they trigger an avalanche, the guy beneath them is doomed.
These people made it down to the bottom safely.
A week before, two men (experienced pisters) were killed by avalanches in neighbouring valleys, all in one day.
The mountaineer friend of mine, who was with me that day, wanted to go skiing there. But he knew it would be a risk too great to test the relationship with the mountain. It was better to watch the bravely suicidal skiers from the outside.
Somehow, watching these guys, and, of course, the mountains made me think of Turner. He was afraid of and respected the power of mountains. He could paint it in a way that makes professional mountaineer shudder.
In this painting, the mountains are one with the skies, with the clouds raising from the mountain tops like ancient spirits, re-examining their attitude to human ants scattered around. Few artists could express the deadly power of mountains better than Turner.