Caught by the River

Kurt Jackson – New Book

6th October 2012

Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks
Alan Livingston and Kurt Jackson


“Kurt Jackson’s sketchbooks are raw, passionate and texturally rich documents. They also represent an ever-changing relationship between observation and invention.” Alan Livingston

Published on 8 September 2012 by Lund Humphries in association with the Lemon Street Gallery; 144 pages, Hardback, ISBN 978-1-84822-110-9, £35.00

Kurt Jackson Sketchbooks 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 paintings inspired mainly by the landscapes which surround him and his deep understanding of natural history, ecology, and humanitarian and environmental issues.

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 to Lily Allen at Glastonbury (where the conditions often lend themselves to painting with mud!): “I squat down on the stage, leaning against the speaker boxes; I have my compulsory ear plugs rammed in – they don’t shut all the sound out by any means but it is bearable – pleasurable – not dangerous. I sit on a pile of electric cables and lay my gear out around me – water pot and brushes, old lunch boxes of inks, pastels, crayons, my pallet of watercolours. With a roar and a change in lighting the performance starts…”

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’.

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.

About the Authors:

Professor Alan Livingston CBE, DL, FCSD was Rector and Chief Executive of University College Falmouth from 1987 to 2009. He was appointed Visiting Professor in Visual Communication at the University of Ulster in 2011.

Kurt Jackson MA (Oxon) DLitt (Hon) RWA was born is 1961 in Blandford, Dorset. He graduated from St Peter’s College, Oxford with a degree in Zoology in 1983. While there, he spent most of his time painting and attending courses at Ruskin College of Art, Oxford. On gaining his degree he travelled extensively and independently, painting wherever he went. He travelled to the Arctic alone and hitched across Africa with his wife. This has given him a broad experience of environments and cultures, which has enriched his work with a unique insight and an attention to detail. He moved to Cornwall in 1984 where he still lives and works.

A dedication to and celebration of the environment is intrinsic to both his politics and his art and a holistic involvement with his subjects provides the springboard for his formal innovations. Jackson’s practice involves both plein air and studio work and embraces an extensive range of materials and techniques including mixed media, large canvases, printmaking and sculpture.

He has been Artist in Residence on the Greenpace ship Esperanza, at the Eden Project and at Glastonbury Festival since 1999. He has an Honorary Doctorate (DLitt) from Exeter University and is an Honorary Fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford University. He is an ambassador for Survival International and frequently works with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WaterAid, Oxfam and Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

Kurt Jackson is represented by the Lemon Street Gallery, Truro and by the Redfern Gallery in Cork Street, London and is an academician at the Royal West of England Academy.

Kurt Jackson giving talks and signing books at the Tate, St Ives on Friday 16 November.