Archive for category Subject: Kurt Jackson

Kurt Jackson’s Botanical Landscape

Kurt Jackson is that rare creature, a creator who is as at home with the written word as he is with the paintbrush. Eloquent in both media, this is his account of the natural world as he sees it. If this was a collaboration such as say, Robert Macfarlane’s The Lost Words, you’d describe it as an illustrated account, or perhaps a curated portrait. As it is, though, the two strands are inseparable and the paintings, drawings, poems and accounts of travels, excursions and experiences are a single piece.

I said that Jackson is a rare creature, and the truth is that this is a unique work and has to be taken as a whole. The words don’t explain the pictures and the pictures don’t illustrate the words; both account for the landscape as it is and as Jackson sees and experiences it. To open the book is to enter a world that is very personal, and yet at once recognisable. As individuals, we’ve all been caught in motorway jams and wondered at the variety of flora that populate the verges. (That’s from a chapter entitled Weeds that makes it clear that these neglected plants are anything but second-class citizens). We’ve also marvelled at the majesty of an oak tree and perhaps wandered through the undergrowth of a woodland, disturbing small creatures as we go.

So, what is the book like? Well, imagine looking out of an all-seeing window and listening to the words of an eloquent writer. Somehow, the two meld and sound becomes vision, vision sound. It’s no accident that Robert Macfarlane contributes a preface. He gets it.

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Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks || Alan Livingston & Kurt Jackson

I’ve always felt that looking at an artist’s sketchbook can be, or at least feel like, an invasion of privacy, a bit like reading private correspondence. However, when it’s offered freely and is of this sort of quality, those reservations don’t need to be applied. The fact is that many artists would be pleased if their finished works were up to the standard of what Kurt knocks off as an aide-memoire.

Sketchbooks are a central part of the process of Kurt Jackson’s exhibited work and are, as becomes clear, more than just visual notes made at a specific time and place. Rather, they are the place where he evolves the finished result, almost in the manner of a discussion with himself. As a result, they’re even more illuminating that you might think. The other useful thing here is that we have Kurt’s own words to describe the process. This is much more than just an “I did this, I did that” progression, rather a description of the way the scene developed and what was happening at the same time – “A buzzard flaps from bank to bank as we pass underneath – a continuous line on my page, up one bank the birds shape and come down the other bank – all joined together, all connected. A dark, fluid pencil line.” This stream-of-consciousness becomes poetic and all-absorbing, merging the written word and the painted shape into a single work of art.

This is a remarkable book that says much more about the creative process, practically, intellectually and spiritually, than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s utterly compelling.


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