Janette Kerr PhD HRSA PPRWA
The Sea, the Sea
15 May – 10 July 2021
No exhibition about the sea would be complete without the work of Janette Kerr. Her study of wave and wind action particularly around the Shetlands has been dedicated, inspirational and professional, working in collaboration with many others who approach the sea in different often scientific ways. Her engagement with the life and energy of the sea comes across unmistakably in her paintings.
Janette Kerr’s new work is now available to see below and buy. Any enquiries please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0)1308 459511.
“Janette Kerr, in my estimation, is the best painter of the sea in these islands… one of her greatest assets is the quality of her brushwork, … it is dynamic and suggestive, and has an organic life of its own.” Brian Fallon, 2012, Chief Critic of the Irish Times and Literary Editor, 1977-1988
Janette Kerr is the ultimate sea painter. Her bold, expressive, exploratory work begins outside with the salt in her paint and the sea heaving and crashing around her, the wilder the better. Not only will she be there on the rocks or in a boat painting and drawing, responding directly to the elements, she will also have studied the archives and talked with the locals, looking for the stories of people who have lived, fished, explored or even died there. For an artist who works alone in her studio or on site, she is exceptionally collaborative, working on projects with environmentalists, oceanographers, meteorologists, scientists and other artists to enrich her active engagement with the places she paints and the elements she encounters there.
Back in the studio she has time to gather all these ideas and feelings together, combining them with the energy she captures in her studies en plein air, to create much larger drawings and oil paintings. The powerful works that result combine a Romantic experience of the sublime – both terrifying and thrilling – with exploratory contemporary abstraction. She moves between the representational and the abstract, her work underpinned by exceptional drawing skills. Janette’s relish for the physical process of drawing and painting can be felt in the dynamic quality of her marks and brushstrokes.
In 2016 Janette Kerr sailed in a tall ship from Svalbard in the High Arctic to experience the vastness of mountains and glaciers appearing and disappearing in flowing mist, the darkness, the cold and the silence, interspersed with massive crashes as the ice melts.
Her Arctic work was shown at Sladers Yard in the solo exhibition, North, in spring 2018. Janette’s brushwork is loose and expressive, capturing the essence of constant change in a place where everything is moving and time takes on a whole new meaning.
Janette’s studio is in the West Country near Bath but between residencies and trips she divides her time between the studio here and Shetland, 200 miles north of Aberdeen and west of Bergen, Norway. She has been going to Scotland for a long time. Her ancestors were Scottish and she was always drawn to the Shetlands. Since 2012 she has had her own bothy there where she goes regularly to paint.
In 2012 she took up a residency with the Meteorological Institute and the Marine Research Centre in Bergen. The Oceanographers are concerned with the study of the unpredictability of waves and wind and the constantly shifting surface of the sea. Working with them affected the way Janette looked at the sea. Her Shetland paintings are about movement and rhythm of sea and wind, welling and breaking waves, merging of spray with air, advancing rain and mist, shafts of sunlight, peripheries, promontories, exposed headlands, edges and ledges. Add to this Janette’s profound intellectual and emotional understanding of her subject matter, her instinct to embed herself in the landscape both physical and cultural and the rich depth of these paintings begins to be explained.
Janette Kerr has a PhD in Fine Art. She is an Honorary Royal Scottish Academician, Past President of the Royal West of England Academy of Art and a Visiting Research Fellow, Fine Art, UWE Bristol. She has a long-standing history of showing work, exhibiting regularly across the UK and abroad. Her work is held in national and international collections. She has worked on residencies in Somerset, Wales, Ireland, Shetland, Norway and Svalbard. She has curated high profile exhibitions and accompanying programmes and has a strong track record of initiating/working collaboratively on successful projects with funding – most recently a Creative Scotland funded collaborative project, Confusing Shadow with Substance, on Shetland.
For Sladers Yard’s exhibition Igniting Sight: artists influenced by JMW Turner, Janette Kerr wrote:
‘Whenever I go to Tate Britain I make my way to the room at the far end of the Clore Gallery, and seek out the late sea paintings by Turner. Removed from their frames, the paintings could have been made yesterday; surfaces of loosely scumbled paint and scratched lines holding the full sound and fury of the sea. Water, land, and sky merge and swirl together, waves rise and crash and wind howls; a mass of moving paint. Some of these paintings are unfinished, and perhaps this adds to their immediacy of experience. While tales of his being tied to a ship’s mast are apocryphal, Turner’s sketchbooks are full of plein air drawings of a sea seen and felt from the swaying deck of a boat; a sea I recognise because I too have drawn from boats in wild seas I know that such experiences are essential to making paintings in this way. My paintings reflect my own struggle to capture the nature of the marine environment, a knowledge attainable only through immersion within it, not merely as a spectator but an active participant. Painting is dialogue between visual thinking and the activity of the body – a pushing and pulling between mind and physical activity – between a surface of paint and the movement of the sea; marks built up, scrubbed out, overlapped, drawn and scored into; layers of transparent and opaque paint that both conceal and reveal the history of a painting made over time, as the sea ebbs and flows. In Turner’s late powerful and sublime works the critical language of modern and contemporary art emerges, freeing painting from the conventions of the early Victorian academy. For me Turner was the first of the abstract painters, and one to whom I, as a 21st century artist, owe a huge debt.’