‘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, author and art critic.
The show is formed of two bodies of work – one recording a three-week period Kerr spent on board a three masted schooner sailing up the coast of Svalbard in Norway up to the Arctic Circle; the second deriving from the Shetland Islands, where the artist lives half of the year.
Kerr is a painter of the northern landscape – a foul-weather artist who enjoys being out in, and working from, the landscape at its extremes. The influence of the Romantic tradition in landscape painting is evident, particularly the philosophy of the Sublime, however Kerr’s practice is contemporary and experimental. She does not seek to create meticulous studies of the landscape, preferring instead to respond to what is sensed rather than what is seen. Her paintings explore the boundaries between representation and abstraction whilst embodying the power and immediacy of both land and sea.
Of her experience working in the Arctic Circle, Kerr says: ‘I felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of such an extreme environment on the peripheries of the world. Landing and walking beside glaciers, up into drifting mist hanging in dark snow-strewn mountains, standing on deck watching a thunder grey and pale blue world passing, and trying to capture all this on paper was an impossible task.’
Kerr began painting seascapes in 2010 – a move that followed her first encounter with the Shetland Islands. To further understand the islands and its weather, she has spoken to fishermen and read the stories of those who have experienced the extreme storms. These insights feed into her work, giving it a polyvocal nature where the sea itself and other voices come together to create a poetic and tempestuous story in the mind’s eyes of the viewer.
Whilst her larger works are created in the studio, Kerr prefers to paint and sketch ‘en-plein-air’, whether on a boat or the shore. She says: ‘This is integral to my working process – immersive experiences of observing and experiencing changing land/seas, extremes, physical and meteorological shifts. I draw whilst out in boats with waves washing over the deck, crouched with my sketchbook and paints on rocks by the sea, in snow painting with freezing fingers; blown across hills by gusts of wind, drenched by spray and sleet, going home with salt-encrusted hair and skin. This is all part of how I work.’
Reflecting this part of her practice, North also features a selection of these sketchbook drawings, which will be displayed around her paintings.
Says Freddie Burness, Director of Cadogan Contemporary: ‘It is a great privilege to be showing these incredible Seascapes from Janette Kerr. After her sell-out show in 2016, this much anticipated exhibition of paintings from Shetland and the Arctic is not to be missed.’