Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks
“Kurt Jackson’s sketchbooks are raw, passionate and texturally rich documents. They also represent an ever-changing relationship between observation and invention.”
Published to coincide with the exhibition This Place: St Just in Penwith at the Lemon Street Gallery, Truro (8 September to 6 October 2012), this is the first book to discuss Kurt Jackson’s assertion that his sketchbooks, as a body of work in their own right, should be regarded as seriously as his paintings, prints and sculpture.
Drawing on a selection of twenty sketchbooks dating from 2007 − of differing sizes and a variety of media – this book offers a rare insight into the mind of a highly creative and original artist widely known for his individual watercolours, oils and acrylics inspired mainly by the Cornish landscapes which surround him and his deep understanding of natural history, ecology, and humanitarian and environmental issues.
Described in the Financial Times as ‘one of Britain’s most compelling contemporary painters’, Jackson’s sketchbooks are vital to the development and completion of his paintings. The pages of his sketchbooks reveal how the hastily executed images can help him to work out what he wants to achieve on canvas, or simply capture a spontaneous image when there is not enough time to paint or draw properly. Insights into his domestic and professional life − not necessarily revealed in his exhibited works − abound from his continual routine of making drawings, marks, notes, poems and scribbles.
Compelled to draw every day, Jackson lets his energies and obsessions flow freely across every page with each sketchbook acquiring ‘a battered patina through a restless pursuit of new visual experiences − some even carrying a gentle aroma of tea, coffee, food and wine’. A prolific draughtsman, Jackson never contemplates travelling without pens, pencils, paints and some form of sketchbook − even a night out at the local pub will involve a sketchbook in the pocket.
An engaging introductory chapter, ‘Between Artist and Place’ by Alan Livingstone, is followed by a series of narratives written by the artist which take the reader on journeys across the breadth of Britain and Europe − from the Scilly Isles and Dorset Stour to a grand voyage by train to Greece. Eloquent, personal observations help contextualise the images from a Banksy show in Bristol and Lily Allen at Glastonbury (where the conditions lend themselves to painting with mud!) to travels along the Cornish Coast which reveal the artist’s muse − the seasonal, tidal and diurnal changes and subtleties; the local fishing activities; the visitors; the fauna; the flora.
Then upcountry, taking detours to visit veteran trees including the Knighthood Oak and Ashbritten Yew, to Jura with ‘challenging conditions of soggy paper, soggy clothes and damp feet, but with amazing shifting light, a saturated colour palette and misty skylines, with birdsong and Mr Orwell’s lingering presence’. From there to France where “we paddle and drift on; around each meander another verdant world awaits. A day’s canoeing and maybe fifty small sketches result ... each one a tiny cameo portrait of a moment in our day, an observation, an occurrence, an encounter; a way of becoming intimate with a particular watercourse’.
On to Milan where the artist draws a self-portrait whilst cleaning his teeth in ‘an over-bright, neon-lit hotel mirror, deeply unflattering, a rabbit caught in the headlights!’; to Venice and pigeons drawn with ‘a pigeon feather and Indian ink on pieces of advertising hoarding while ink-black gondolas drift under arches over sugar sachets and newspaper front pages.’ Finally the return home to daytime scenes on a cliff’s edge and ordinary family life via Eurostar where doodling under the ocean is ‘an extraordinary, brain-challenging experience − it’s a brief moment that needs to be caught, almost just a flash in the windows’ reflections between the continent and the island; not to be missed.’
For everyone with an interest in 21st-century British Art and the landscapes around us, Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks offers a rare and extraordinary insight into Jackson – artist, environmentalist and family man.
Signed copies of Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks is available from Kurt Jackson Editions and all good book stockists.