Famous BBC presenter opens Turner exhibition on environment in Twickenham

By Cesar Medina

10th Jul 2024 | Local News

Chris Packham views rarely seen Sunset, oil by JMW Turner at Turner's House (credit: Lucinda MacPherson).
Chris Packham views rarely seen Sunset, oil by JMW Turner at Turner's House (credit: Lucinda MacPherson).

Chris Packham CBE, broadcaster, author, environmental activist and animal welfare campaigner, opened the exhibition A World of Care – Turner and the Environment at Turner's House.

The presenter from BBC's BAFTA Award winning series, Springwatch, took time out to open the exhibition at Turner's House in Twickenham, last week (4 July).

A World of Care presents a selection of J.M.W. Turner's work on loan from Tate documenting a series of environmental issues.

The title of the exhibition is Turner's own, his words when seeing a "murky veil" of smoke covering London and the displays in the house he designed for himself as a rural retreat, help us understand the history of climate change, Chris said.

The presenter explained he has a keen interest in art and is an admirer of J.M.W. Turner's work, noting: "Turner was a man who was born in the age of sail, and then died in the age of steam.

"He was witness to the birth of the Industrial Revolution and captured some of the immediate impacts of that."

Chris added: "When it comes to sunsets and the vivid colours in some of his paintings, there was no doubt at all that the pollution - whether it was from volcanoes or the coal fires on the Tyne … would have enhanced the colour of those skies.

"There is a very beautiful sunset in the exhibition… the potency of the colours, the thickness of that impasto paint - its loud, and its bright, and its powerful.

"But also it reminded me of some of his other paintings - he had this preoccupation with disaster.

"Those paintings where the sublime aspect of nature was crushing humanity. Where nature is almost getting its own back."

Chris Packham at Turner's House, Twickenham (credit: Lucinda MacPherson).

Chris, an advocate of campaign group Just Stop Oil and ending government investment in new fossil fuels, joked: "I was very pleased to be allowed in this morning without searching my bag to see if I had a can of soup. Because I am obviously often a supporter of Just Stop Oil and their stunts.

"We can disagree with the methods, and I certainly don't agree with all of their methods, but what's important is that we get the message.

"One of the ways that activists can do that, is to spread into other aspects of culture. And today is a perfect example of that.

"In order to communicate a message, here we are using beautiful art of a long gone painter who lived in an extraordinary period, the very cusp of the Anthropocene, and it will make us think about the way that we have and continue to impact upon that world.

"The allegories between those paintings and how the sublime is crushing humanity are so true today."

A World of Care has combined ecological interpretations of Turner's works with guidance on how to live sustainably and take action to mitigate these problems.

Tom Ardill, the curator, explained: "That's something that we are really passionate about here - that part of the exhibition isn't just doom and gloom. There is a lot of beauty there as well.

"And Turner's work, of course, is a great reminder of why we are trying to tackle these problems."

Turner's House has worked with Richmond and Twickenham Friends of the Earth to come up with practical solutions to the eight environmental problems highlighted in the exhibition.

Chris Packham agreed, "It is important that we empower ourselves to be part of the solution. And that self-empowerment brings us joy and … a sense of purpose."

A World of Care: Turner and the Environment is on until Sunday, 27 October 2024, Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 4pm. For more information visit turnershouse.org


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