Exeposé Arts went to see a talk by Cornish artist Kurt Jackson, organised by the University of Exeter Arts and Culture as part of Arts Week.
Kurt Jackson has strong links with the university, with an honorary degree and his paintings and sculptures displayed around campus. He is a major environmental activist and uses his artwork to raise awareness about issues affecting the natural world.
He began the talk by showing a film called ‘My mate Ronnie’ which depicted the installation of a bronze and granite sculpture in a field near his home in Cornwall. The sculpture is of a large-scale elderly man with his arms outstretched and birds perched on them.
He described how the man was a local tin miner, born in Jackson’s house, who was so upset about seabirds were dying due to a oil slick that he went to the field and fed the birds every day until he died. The piece is extremely moving, with the sculpture located in the same field. Jackson describes it as an exploration of “an interesting subject” and their interaction with the environment.
Another video clip depicted Jackson painting outside, on the bank of the River Forth. He then explained how this was part of a wider project tracing the trajectory of rivers, a way of getting to know the country and getting “intimate” with the landscape.
He is interested in how the land changes and expressed a dislike of being labelled as “a landscape painter” as his work goes much further.
He is also a artist at residence at Glastonbury Festival, an experience which was extremely interesting to hear about. Attempting to capture the atmosphere of performances, Jackson sits on the side of the stage with his paints and paper, creating fast paced splashes of colour. He described how it is often too dark to see his palette, and has to memorise and feel for the colours.
“Amazing things can come out of fiddling around with bits of paint.”
Jackson uses his work to raise funds for charities such as Water Aid, Oxfam, and Greenpeace, and promote awareness of environmental issues. He is interested in the way in which people engage with the land and wants his work to be accessible. He described how he was really keen for people to know how and why he creates his work, which I think deserves great respect for.
Bryony James, Online Arts Editor
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