What is the secret of Kurt Jackson’s success? Unlike any other artist on the Lund Humphries list he draws in a wide following of fans hungry for more. His long association with the Glastonbury Festival, Greenpeace and the environmental movement generally certainly give his work a contemporary relevance which is unusual within the inward-looking art world, and his artistic background is unconventional, perhaps giving him a useful critical edge.
But it’s more than that. In his introduction to Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks, my Book of the Week, Alan Livingston describes Jackson’s sketchbooks as ‘raw, passionate and texturally rich documents’ which ‘also represent an ever-changing relationship between observation and invention’. In a review of the book in the Independent last year, Michael McCarthy urged readers to ‘forget all those “polite” landscape paintings and let the great Kurt Jackson show you how to do it’, invoking Gerard Manley Hopkins’ term ‘inscape’ – the ‘is-ness’ or essence of a place – to describe how Jackson communicates the raw energy of the natural world.
Kurt Jackson’s paintings speak with immediacy, and his sketchbooks most of all. They are snapshots of what it feels like to be in a particular place at a particular time: the sensation of the landscape experienced through rain, sun, hail and gales, or the intense greenness of spring, or the bright light of the Mediterranean. For us the viewers there’s an emotional connection with our own memory of similar places, as the observed landscape is transformed into something more generic, almost primeval.
Next week, on 18 March, Jackson’s exhibition of new work – Kurt Jackson: The Burn – opens at the Lighthouse in Glasgow (until 28 March). It traces his journey from the moors of Tangy Loch in western Scotland, following the coastline of the Kintyre peninsula to its southern tip, ending at a ‘glinting, rushing burn’. Fans of Kurt Jackson, catch it while you can.
Lucy Myers, Managing Director
Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks by Alan Livingston and Kurt Jackson. 2012. Hardback. 144 pages. 117 colour and 40 b&w illustrations. £35 / $70