Kurt Jackson captures spirit of the countryside in vibrant Falmouth Art Gallery show

By Lucy Elder | 11 April 2011
An image of an oil painting of countryside
Kurt Jackson, Liffey Head Morning Sunshine (2006)
Exhibition: Kurt Jackson at Fifty, Falmouth Art Gallery, Falmouth, until June 18 2011

Kurt Jackson is a man who is clearly inspired when outdoors, exploring the entirety of the countryside he finds himself in.

He has a rare knack of being able to literally transplant the feeling of being in a storm, on a cliff or in water and apply it to whatever surface takes his fancy. And he does it so well that not only is he transported there again, but the viewer is too.

Kurt Jackson at Fifty is not a retrospective, but is a thoughtful look at the prolific body of work that  Jackson has amassed over the years since his practice began.

An image of a painting of a rural setting at night
Loud Wind Through the Tree tops, low Winter Sunlight Through the Twigs (2003)
The vast majority of the work isn’t for sale and comes from Jackson’s own collection. This immediately differentiates the exhibition from past, more commercial ventures.

When considering that fact, there is at once more time and space to enjoy the work as a whole. There is a sensitive, almost nurturing curation at play here, and an apparent freedom to include lesser-known pieces from his oeuvre, including previously unseen sculpture.

Jackson is best known for his vibrant, layered paintings, depicting natural scenes, often Cornish and often coastal (although Mediterranean scenes are becoming more of a fixture) with a mixture of thick paint.

A photo of a silver stone sculpture
Cornish Wren. Bronze (2009)
He’ll add dirt, mud and fabric to the paint, producing works such as Self Portrait, Standing on Black Rock, in which large floral swathes blend together with painted rock faces against a lively sea.

His sculptures, by comparison, do not elucidate the same response. They lack the voice and movement of his paintings until they begin to represent the chaotic bumps and lines that his paintings show.

One piece made for this exhibition, 50 Birds for my 50th Birthday (2011), is a thoughtful, witty and more introspective piece of work, showing bronze birds perched along a ledge.

An image of an oil painting of a blue sea from the coast
Morning Loch Blue Tits Singing Loch an Eileen (2007)
A new work is placed in perfect view of the exhibition entrance. At first glance, you could assume it to be a typical, albeit colourful, sea of bubbling water.

It is only a careful look at the caption that reveals the truth. The painting is a sea of coloured tents under a blue sky, called Scorcher, Femi Kuti on the Pyramid stage, Glastonbury Festival (2010)

Alongside the painting are immediate but sensitively executed sketches of performers including Amadou et Mariam, who are captured with a pencil line and a vibrant stroke of colour. Just a single stroke is enough to give feeling to the work.

Michael Eavis, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival and a friend of Jackson, has spoken passionately of the painter’s warmth and generosity as an artist.

He estimates that Jackson’s works, created at the festival and later auctioned off, have raised around £500,000 for charities such as Oxfam, Wateraid and Greenpeace.

Jackson has been an official artist-in-residence for the festival a number of times and will be again in the future.

With each year, Jackson’s career seems more like an endless cycle of productivity. His is the sort of work only encouraged by grey skies, muddy puddles and rough seas.

  • Open 10am-5pm (except Sunday). Admission free. Tree:Gwedhen, Kurt Jackson’s next exhibition, runs at the Lemon Street Gallery in Truro from September 10 to October 8 2011.

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