Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Kurt Jackson, mark making and influences

This is a follow up to Lindsay's really interesting post on Kurt Jackson.

I discovered his work some years back and it really resonated for me - the way he catches the light, the drama, the deep sense of place, the particular colours of a region. I go to see his shows in person whenever possible - there is one coming up in the Spring at the John Davies gallery, about 70 miles from me - if anyone can get to it they are guaranteed an interesting day. It's in a very nice part of the country with lots of small galleries so it makes a great day out.

There is also a show at the end of this month at Messums gallery in London, the theme of this is Forest Gardens. What may be of particular interest to readers of this blog is the interview with him on his Thames Project. Look under videos.

It was interesting reading on Tina's blog how she doesn't like brush marks in her work - and it works utterly beautifully for her. But I love marks - brush marks, drawn marks, scratches, glazes, splatters and splotches and scumbles that all suggest the textures and elements in the scene. Though this is what I want in my own work I can thoroughly appreciate the subtle glazes of Tina's or the quietness of a Gwen John or Morandi and want to own one :>) I do in fact have small painting of Tina's and Lindsay's :>) (and Lindsay, Ronell and Gesa's from the FPP exchange :>) )

That first painting is a watercolour of mine, done plein air, on the east coast, on a very wild day with brushmarks, scribbles of oil pastel, scratches through wet watercolour and glazes and wet-in-wet paint. It's only about 6 inches square.

This second painting, about 11 inches square on the right, is an oil done plein air on a breezy day as the tide was high. No stretches of wet sand shining. There are splatters and scratches of paint, some sand deliberately integrated with the wet oil paint and lots of marks, suggesting the shells, pebbles and fragments along a previous higher tide line - the majority of it was done with a knife - it's so easy to clean in the sand! but the paint isn't applied thickly - I rarely apply paint in thick layers.

Generally I love to arrive when the tide is fully in, allowing me close ups of the waves and then views of the shimmering wet sand and pools as it recedes . On this part of the east coast the tide goes out for over a mile - so at low tide the sea is just a thin blue line on the horizon. Because the land is almost flat, the tide moves very fast so it's essential to paint equally fast! Take 2 hours over this painting and what started as a scene of waves only feet in front of you is now a view of half a mile of drying sand with the sea in the distance. My natural painting speed is to work fast plein air, so that doesn't worry me.

These are all quite old pieces, done as I was getting to grips with the ways I could get down, on paper or canvas, the weather, the light, the particular colours. the bones of the land beneath the sand (or grass/whatever), the way is sweeps and swirls and the kind of marks I could make to suggest it.

On my degree we were encouraged to build a rich diversity of mark making so that we could draw on this at need. We had to take in a variety of items like rollers and combs and sticks and twigs, rags, sponges, knives of course, cotton reels, jugs and much much more - anything went!

KJ didn't go to art college but did a degree in zoology at Oxford University. His parents were both artists though, so from a young age he learned at first hand about art and artists and would have had a deeper than average knowledge and understanding of the arts and of course he studied it at school.

I studied art at school, went to art college and did my foundation year and then 'dropped out', married and had a family and completed my degree some years later when I really really wanted to paint again.

The third piece on the left here is a large long thin canvas - about 4 feet high I think it was. A studio piece with paint poured onto the canvas with a jug, splashed on, then powdered pigment dropped into the wet paint. Glazes were added and final small areas of thicker paint to edit out areas and simplify where it was overcomplicated.

It was painted in thinned acrylics on raw, unprimed, stretched canvas. The acrylic sealed it and some of the final more opaque layers are in oil paint.

This was from memory of sketching in the winter, abstracted and simplified.

Lindsay pointed out KJ owes some of his techniques to the likes of Jackson Pollock - but close inspection of Rembrandt too, shows gloops and trickles of paint and a wonderful freedom of mark making, that as you step back resolves into intricate lace. So I wonder, where did Pollock get his inspiration? elements of work can deeply influence other artists and it may be only a small element. KJ lists the artists he admires as Anselm Kiefer, Miguel Barcelo, Tapies and Andy Goldsworthy. also th poetry of Ted Hughes.

For instance, using unprimed canvas was an idea I tried out after seeing Hannemuhle's work - the paintings themselves, process-led, didn't interest me particularly - but the fact that she was pouring paint onto raw canvas and the effects it could produce certainly did. It enabled me to get watercolour like effects, with colours bleeding into each other in subtle transitions. It was easy to pour and splash - my lawn was often multicoloured at this time!

With studio work it's possible to take more time. I work fast but can build layers over weeks, glazes and scratching through to show underlying colours, change elements totally as the painting evolves and there is a lot of thinking time. In plein air work it's a case of responding instinctively to what is there and catching it before it changes.

KJ visits and revisits places through changing light and weather and explores themes in depth, following a valley to the sea or a river from source to sea, a mining route, Cornish hedges or woods or simply a field looked at in many ways over time (The Long Field). Many of these have books/catalogues associated with them that you can see on his website or often on ebay.

I like to do the same sort of thing and tend to work in long series - it's the changing light and weather that I find so interesting.

I would love to do some huge canvasses like KJ's - they are amazing when seen in real life, texture and marks and drama and light. I don't have the space :>( 5 foot is my limit really for ease of transport.

We are all influenced, consciously or unconsciously by work we see. David Prentice quotes Rupert Bear (childrens books) as an influence with their aerial viewpoint in the illustrations.

I think KJ is certainly an influence on my work, along with Monet, Turner, Gwen John, Joan Eardley, Egon Schiele (love his use of line), Cezanne, Ross Loveday, David Tress, Rembrandt, Aubrey Beardsley, Rothko, Pollock, Toulouse Lautrec ...... and so many more, elements of lots of people have influenced me - some seemingly incompatible - the incisive lines of Schiele and the colour fields of Rothko - but hopefully that's what makes me, ME.


Jeanette said...

Vivien, I can 'hear' the passion in your post about your work and its wonderful to read that.

I can see some of the influences of artists like Kurt in your work as well as your own style shining through from the start.

Concentrating on a single area of topic seems to be popular and I can see why. I know I could fill a book with art on an area not a minute's walk from my doorstep.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

This is a really interesting post - so interesting to hear about the working practices of other artists and the different ways of mark-making.

So my 'To Do' list now has two exhibitions by KJ to see - Messum's before the end of January and John Davies in the Spring. (Vivien - Was it March when we went before?)

(PS Did you mean to say that Ted Hughes and Andy Goldsworthy influenced Kurt Jackson rather than Jackson Pollock?)

vivien said...

Thanks Jeanette and Katherine :>) wow you were quick off the mark!

I've clarified the influences bit Katherine

Yes I think it's in March again - meet up again??? I'm on their mailing list so they'll inform me - I had the 'early warning' a while back.

I'm wondering about London ..... I really shouldn't 'cos funds are low! but it's ages since I've been. Thinking about it!

Lindsay said...

Very personal post Vivien. I too love to hear about your process. Great to have our water-obsessed corner of the web here. I'm inspired!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

London Art fair is next week....... ;)

vivien said...

the angle of it changed as I wrote Lindsay! it so often does - I write as chaotically as I paint!

I've been disappointed in the last couple of London Art Fair events Katherine, they seem to have lost their spark.

I enjoy mooching around the Cork Street, and nearby galleries - and if the London Art Fair is on then I would think it's a David Blackburn (sadly no relation) show at the gallery in Islington. I LOVE his work.

Anonymous said...

MM, that John Davies gallery is a carrot swinging in front of my nose. Hartman often goes to Felixstowe, if I go along, that's not too far off?
Great to see a little deeper into your thinking process and the physical outcome and I agree, it is all passion!

vivien said...

It's rather a long way from Felixstowe Ronell - I'll need to check mileage.

The gallery is in the Cotswolds at Moreton in Marsh.

Katherine heads there from the south and I head down from the midlands (but north)

muddy red shoes said...

Interesting post Viv, you have such a strong style, it really is apparent in your work, and I love the fact that you work in series.

Gesa said...

This is such a rich post, Vivien... sorry, had been slow in reading and commenting; I love your comments about marks, and I think I'm fully with you on that as for my own painting; I remember how one of the early posts you commented on my blog was on Joan Eardley - ah, there's an artist that needs to go on here at some point; and her marks just left me without breath (in the nicest possible way).
I also remember how you mentioned that KJ uses writing in paintings and poetry, I like that very much and would like to follow that up a bit more systematically.
Yes - influences, such an interesting concept; I've thought a lot about in relation to academic work and originality, which works possibly fairly similar (if less creatively) as in arts; and so much goes in, becomes work into, subconsciously, decisively, stubbornly, playfully that it becomes very difficult to then go and disentangle.

vivien said...

thanks Gesa :>)

You should certainly do a post on Joan Eardley - I love her work and it's so relevant to the discussion on mark making.

Tina come back from the coast and argue the case for losing marks :>) - which is in itself a different kind of mark making!

vivien said...

thanks Gesa :>)

You should certainly do a post on Joan Eardley - I love her work and it's so relevant to the discussion on mark making.

Tina come back from the coast and argue the case for losing marks :>) - which is in itself a different kind of mark making!