A new book about the British landscape painter Kurt Jackson (b. 1961).
The text has been completely updated.
EXTRACT FROM CHAPTER 4:
One of Kurt Jackson’s appealing concepts is that the ocean is one of the last true wildernesses left on the planet. It’s an idea that I found very interesting when he explained it to me when we first met in St Just. I took it that he meant a spiritual as well as an ecological or natural wilderness. Jackson’s art can thus be seen as an art that is the border region between humanity and nature, between culture and nature, as well as literally tackling that area – the coast – which is neither land nor sea.
Note that Kurt Jackson is always facing outwards from the land, and looking towards the ocean, not painting with his back to the sea, and looking towards the land (and notice that the many boats and ships and helicopters and such in this area are left out of the paintings, too).
So Jackson’s Porth series, about Priest Cove, and all of his sea paintings, are very important in his art in articulating this idea of the ocean as the last wilderness. ‘Have you ever wondered what’s out there?’ is a question that Kurt Jackson asks (it’s the title of one of his major paintings, too – the centrepiece of the Porth series).
Jackson has repeated the question over a number of related works: the title of two 2004 pieces is The Last Wilderness In Western Europe? This was painted on Jura (in Scotland), and both pictures are consciously emptied of human marks – just empty moorland and a delicate blue sky. An earlier picture, part of the Cape series, was entitled Do You Ever Wonder What’s Out There? (1999) – an unusual composition in the Jackson oeuvre which puts the horizon very high, and focusses on the dark blue ocean flecked with white spray.
Kurt Jackson isn’t that interested in many of the connotations of the ocean – the moon, time, goddesses, rebirth (though moons do appear in his art from time to time). He’s not really interested in religious or pagan or magical symbols in that way. And he’s not that interested in shipping, fishing, and all things maritime, like J.M.W. Turner was.
But when Jackson asks a question like ‘have you ever wondered what’s out there?’, and considers the sea as one of the last wildernesses, that alters the interpretation of his sea paintings. It doesn’t apply to all of them, though: in plenty of paintings (and not only the smaller or more modest ones), Jackson is not thinking in terms of big themes. But when he titles a painting Have You Ever Wondered What’s Out There? (and writes the title in big letters across the painting), it’s clearly intended to resonate in the viewer at a deeper level.
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