While passing the Municipal Gallery in Worcester yesterday my eye caught sight of a poster advertising an exhibition of paintings called ‘Porth’ by Kurt Jackson. Shows in the Worcester gallery are usually a disappointment they are usually touring shows of installations or the ill considered daubing that seem to be in fashion with museum curators. . I first became familiar with Jackson’s work on seeing an exhibition of his innovative watercolours in a gallery in St. Just. So this time I went in eagerly anticipating a welcome change from the usual stuff.
Well for this touring exhibition Kurt has put together large collaged paintings in mixed media. The collaged bits were mostly items retrieved from the beach at Priest’s Cove where Kurt mostly works. ‘All that was left’ had two crumpled oilskin jackets and cork floats with bits of rope evocative but somehow inappropriate.
The majority of the paintings were made up of two or three door-sized stretched canvasses fixed together – gallery art again. Very few locations could display these paintings, a college refectory if you shifted the portraits of pensioned academics perhaps. There were perhaps three of four mixed media watercolours framed but unmounted as though they were a hurried addition. These were typical Kurt showing evidence of his playful exploratory way with water based media – capturing effects of light on the sea and evoking in the viewer a sense of noise of waves breaking on shingle. I wish there had been more.
The gallery was showing a video of Kurt at work outdoors on a cliff top at Priests Cove. He gave a bravura performance working on a huge canvas spread on the turf and held down by stones. I guess he was working on an acrylic underpainting laid in earlier. The video showed him working barefoot, trowelling on paint with a knife, splattering it on with a loaded brush Jackson Pollock style and blending it with fingers and toes. Great fun and with an eye for the chance effect or happy accident but never completely controlled.
For quiet reflection I wandered into a neighbouring gallery and saw ‘Herald of the Night’ by Arnesby Brown - an oil painting of about 1870 he was also a Newlyn painter. The painting shows a full moon rising over a simple landscape with two rather badly painted cows, a painting easily dismissed because of its romantic Victorian subject matter. But then I looked at how he had painted the evening sky, there were blues mauves greens juxtaposed and harmonious. It was controlled and considered the product not of impulsive brush gestures but of carefully placed marks. Characteristics all too rarely found in contemporary painting.