Unsettling Landscapes

By 8th November 2021 Exhibition

Kurt Jackson has contributed the piece Joyce’s Pool, the Avon source. oil on canvas. 91.5 x 91.5cm (above) to a mixed exhibition curated by Robert Macfarlane, Unsettling Landscapes: The Art of the Eerie, at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, which runs until January 4th 2022.

Unsettling Landscapes explores eerie representations of rural landscapes from the aftermath of the First World War to the present. In his essay for the catalogue Robert Macfarlane explains that the eerie ‘involves that form of fear which is felt first as unease then as dread, and it tends to be incited by glimpses and tremors rather than outright attack. Horror specialises in confrontation and aggression; the eerie in intimation and intimidation.

Artists represented include Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Monica Poole, Henry Moore, Ithell Colquhoun, Edward Burra, George Shaw, Ingrid Pollard, Laurence Edwards, Blaze Cyan and Annie Ovenden. Also featured are illustrations for the ghost stories of M R James, eerie artwork from the Ghost Box record label and Derek Jarman’s celebrated short film A Journey to Avebury.

“I have made a number of bodies of work based upon watercourses, following the routes taken by rivers, the Forth, Dart, Tamar, Thames, Stour [Dorset and Suffolk] and the Avon of Bath and Bristol. As I write I am currently involved in working along the Helford and Fowey in Cornwall and the Nadder in Wiltshire.

“The Bristol Avon is one of the U.K.’s largest and longest rivers, rising in Gloucestershire to finally flow into the Bristol Channel at Avonmouth near Bristol after a voyage of about 76 miles. I spent five years exploring this river culminating in two large exhibition of paintings.

“One of the joys of these river projects has been to discover the source or sources where the first waters rise. There is something very special about these places, more so with the larger rivers, the apparent and physical birth of these huge volumes of water. A river’s source is often marked on the ordnance survey map and with many of the larger rivers it may be something of a site of pilgrimage-a destination. These fountainheads have been seen as special places; since the earliest days our ancestors saw water as a precious and sacred resource and the birth of river, the first trickle and flow, the spring, well, bog, was a holy site. It was often celebrated, venerated, sometimes enclosed and marked; often treated with ceremony and offerings, even sacrifice. Many curious objects, sometimes mundane foodstuffs, sometimes precious metals, occasionally beautifully crafted relics have being discovered in these sources, gifted to the place or its associated deities. Many of these sites have somehow kept their special ambience, maintained their unique atmosphere-a combination of the holy, the wild, the spiritual; nature as sacred. Joyce’s Pool is no different; a quiet corner of the countryside, surrounded by agriculture but remaining secluded and isolated. This small body of water, dark beneath the trees of her wooded banks looming over; silhouettes merging into the shadows and their own vertical reflections; a mysterious place, hiding her subterranean springs and secrets. Contre-jour only the waters surface is visible, shimmering and reflecting the cold sunlight and stillness. It has an almost primeval air with the stillness, a dark portal hiding her depths and origins.

“But this silence, this disquietness, the over lit scene hides other concerns of all our 21st Century lives. This source is a collecting point, a sink to drain into and out of-a place for run-off from the surrounding lands to gather.

“In our over treated, over sprayed industrialised agricultural country these precious hollows are being emptied of life-too often they now appear empty because they are empty. Where the tadpoles and tiddlers, the small beasties were collected and discovered by eager pond dipping children now there is a void; the nitrates and herbicides in their deadly solutions taking their toll instead.

“We should take something from those ancients about how we treat these places, these watercourses, this world with proper respect.

“Light should equate with life, with birth and growth.” – Kurt Jackson, 2021.

Unsettling Landscapes: The Art of the Eerie  – Mixed Exhibition
Until January 4th 2022.
St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery
New Street,
SO41 9BH

For more information…

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