Wednesday, 14 October 2015


Redfern Gallery, London

Bestiaries started life as early as the 12th century in England, in the form of detailed depictions in words or pictures of all sorts of animals, real or imaginary. They drew on compilations of even earlier sources and  were never meant to be a scientific text. Humour, accurate observation and imagination combined to make  a heady mix. Improving people’s minds and souls was the aim, particularly 'those who have difficulty comprehending with their ears but will perceive with their eyes'. 

Jackson's contemporary bestiary at the Redfern Gallery is superb. It draws on this religious medieval tradition, a desire to stimulate our connection and appreciation of the world around us. Spider crabs, foxes, coley, grasshoppers, a sperm whale, barn owls, pinkish smudges which suddenly turn into elephant hawk moths, red admirals, a tiger beetle - his work is full of surprises.
Two Cape Lobsters, (mixed media on paper, 65x50cm), above, at first glance might be a beguiling abstract painting. Daddy Long Legs, (oil and collage on canvas, 92x92cm), depicts these frail, ghostly, scary, unpredictable, tiny creatures which seem on the point of falling apart and you wish they would go away and do that somewhere else. In life each one is indistinct and negligible. Here a number have gathered together in an almost military formation. Below Wet Buzzard in the Rain, (mixed media on paper 56 x 60cm), has a haunting soulful beauty of its own.

Wet Buzzard in the Rain
There are landscapes and seascapes too.  The Big Basker, oil on canvas, 122x122cm,  shows a vast  familiar blue grey sea, empty until you spot a tiny black triangle, a fin jabbing its way through the water. I have taken many photographs of Cornish seas - never have I given a thought to the life teeming inside them.

Karl Jackson is 'an ambassador for Survival International and frequently works with Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WaterAid, Oxfam and Cornwall Wildlife Trust'. In his new book (see below) -  A Kurt Jackson Bestiary (2015) - he has returned to zoology, the subject he studied at Oxford University. He combines  stunning imagery with commentaries, his poems, and an account of his working life. It features a Forward by Lord John Krebs and an introduction by Charlotte Mullins.

No comments:

Post a Comment