Cornish visual artist Kurt Jackson discusses his history and working practices

  • The List
  • 16 April 2012
Cornish visual artist Kurt Jackson discusses his history and working practices

What was the first exhibition you went to see?
Being the son of two artists meant that I was brought up visiting numerous exhibitions, both of their contemporaries and public shows. However, there was an exhibition in 1985 at the Tate in London, St Ives 1939-64, which made a big impact and probably combined with other factors led to my move from North Cornwall to West Cornwall.

What was your first paid job as an artist?
My first exhibition that sold was when I was 18. My early years were spent prioritising my work so that although I did odd jobs like working as a builder’s labourer, I relied on the occasional sales that happened – I see it as a ten-year rural ‘apprenticeship’ when I was scraping a living but learning to paint.

What kind of music do you listen to while you’re working?
Half of my working practice is spent outside – plein air enjoying the ambient soundtrack of the world around me which I try to incorporate in the work. When inside my choices of music are very eclectic and diverse – world, folk, contemporary, reggae, opera. At the moment I’m enjoying Bonnie Prince Billy, Arab Strap, Tinariwen, Sinead, Amadou and Mariam, Ethiopiques.

What are the best things about opening nights?
It’s good to get people’s take on my work, their interpretation. Feedback is important, it needs to happen. I’m also very gregarious so I enjoy meeting people and mixing and chatting with people from other walks of life. It’s obviously great when you first see your new work on a big, clean white walled space for the first time. It’s always a good feeling. You look at the work with fresh eyes and reappraise it.

Do you read reviews of your work?
Normally yes, sometimes with baited breath.

Which living artist should be better known than they currently are?
Maybe Miquel Barcelo here in Britain – European artists often seem to be ignored over here.

What has been your career highlight to date?
I was made an honorary fellow of St Peter’s College, Oxford and the University of Exeter awarded me an honorary doctorate both completely out of the blue and both for my services to the arts. The BBC made a documentary about me and my work which I was delighted with. Another career high is obviously the publication by Lund Humphries of the book A New Genre of Landscape Painting – and now I have been take on by the Redfern Gallery in London alongside Lemon Street Gallery in Cornwall – I’ve been spoilt. None of this could have been done without [partner] Caroline’s support and presence throughout – a constant highlight!

What is your favourite work of art?
There isn’t just one! How about Anselm Kiefer’s collages or Miguel Barcelo’s African work or Diebenkorn’s still lifes or Michael Andrews’ ‘Thames’ or John Piper’s gouaches or Tàpies’ collages or a Cy Twombly?

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be patient, be ambitious in the work, prioritise your work, just get on with it; do your own thing, don’t be influenced by trend or fashion.

Kurt Jackson: The Catacol Series, Dovecot Gallery, Edinburgh, Wed 18–Sat 28 Apr.

Kurt Jackson: The Catacol Series

Landscape paintings of the Isle of Arran by Cornwall-based artist.

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