“And perhaps one day, in after years, someone would wander there and listen to the silence, as she had done, and catch the whisper of the dreams that she had dreamt there, in the midsummer, under the hot sun and the white sky. ” – Daphne du Maurier, Frenchman’s Creek.
On a summer’s day, the light in Frenchman’s Creek is a mirage of golden green as the sun’s rays pass down through clustered leaves of this wooded valley, set along the Helford River. The dappled water is dark and glistening, rippling to a perpetual soundtrack of bird song that echoes across the banks. This drowsy, peaceful part of South East Cornwall is enamouring to say the last, and the exact type of place Kurt Jackson would thrive in.
Kurt and nature often go hand in hand. The majority of his exhibitions an collaborations often place the natural world on a pedestal to be admired, appreciated and reflected on. In his spring exhibition, Thorn, Kurt watched, sketched an painted a single tree for an entire year. Before that, he has paid homage to bees, surfing, crabs, lobsters and his wild homeland on the north coast. Therefore, it’s almost surprising that it’s taken this long for Kurt an the Creek to come together.
“I have known the Helford are for years, but when wandering into Frenchman’s Creek I saw the potential as somewhere to work,” he explains, “The slow rhythms, the dominance of nature, the silence of the place, the subtle layer of history. It’s a place and setting I want to work in, to immerse myself in, sometimes quite literally.”
The romanticisms and mysterious allures of Frenchman’s Creek of long inspired artists and writers, most notably Daphne du Maurier, who catapulted this small, but perfectly formed landscape into delicate stardom in her 1941 novel, Frenchman’s Creek. A love story, du Maurier’s novel tells the tale of unhappy Donna, Lady St Columb, who finds solace from London’s court society when she moves into her husband’s remote estate in Cornwall with her children. Having been unoccupied for years, the estate has since been used as a lair for a notorious French pirate. Of course, being far more than just a desperate brute, Dona and the pirate fall in the love and the descriptions featured in du Maurier’s novel of the romantic location do not differ much from today’s scenes.
Kurt is no stranger to immersing himself in his subject matter. It is more unusual for him to be in the studio than it is for him to be out in the wilderness absorbing the elements. Even during his residency at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, Kurt could be found in the thick of the crowd, sketchbook in hand, with music from some of the world’s biggest acts circling around him. Whilst Frenchman’s Creek is a far cry from the vibrant noise of Glastonbury, it’s a peace Kurt has happily welcomed,
“It’s a unique landscape,” he says, “the sessile oak woodlands meeting the tide is extraordinary. It’s not been interfered with in recent years and the National Trust seem to have a goo soft policy with land management here. The seasonal foliage colours, the reflections, the waders, the shoals of mullet, the egrets, the rare plants, the light; it all attracts my attention and gives me material to focus on.”
A walk from the old village of Helford, a former ancient port that still keeps its thatched roofed cottages and tales of its smuggling past, lead to the creek. The lack of disturbance, other than the occasional dog and rainstorm, was ideal for Kurt, and whilst finding flat land was a problem, a sturdy tree trunk made for a suitable easel. Wandering through the wooded path and ascending the steps before navigating amongst the bushes and rocks was often a challenge, but for Kurt to witness the mixture of stone and water under a blanket of flourishing green offered unparalleled inspiration,
“I have always loved those lands with a combination of stone and water and trees, where our presence of light and the senses are taken over by the natural world…The scents and smells of the creek and its mid, it’s a place I find full of nostalgic moments of my childhood. Just as those seasons of wild garlic or snowdrops or bluebells and birdsong transport you to another time.”
Currently, Kurt’s completed exhibition, Frenchman’s Creek is on show at The Jackson Foundation Gallery in St Just until February 22nd 2020. A focus on a large series of paintings of all sizes, seasons and tides, including a small series of sculptures in stone, wood, bronze and oak. Kurt will also be including some poetry and a film of his time at Frenchman’s Creek, hoping to make it an immersive and richly diverse show that celebrates and capture the beauty and fragility of this tender place.
In every exhibition, the gallery, run by husband and wife team Zinzi & Fynn Tucker, works closely with a selected charity who are able to hold their own display in the upstairs part of the gallery. For this show, the team at the Foundation have welcomed Plantlife, a British conservation charity working nationally and internationally to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi.
Through art an more, Kurt Jackson once again continues to bring creativity and conservation together in what is a stunningly captivating exhibition on one of Cornwall’s most romantic an unique landscapes.
Frenchman’s Creek will be running at The Jackson Foundation Gallery until the 22nd February 2020.
Throughout November the gallery is only open on Wednesdays 10am – 5pm.
During December the gallery will be open 10am – 5pm from the 20th until January 4th 2020, closed on 23rd, 24th, and Bank Holidays.
The gallery will be open February Half Term 2020 from the 17th – 22nd 10am – 5pm and will be the last chance to view Frenchman’s Creek before the Spring 2020 exhibition Kurt Jackson Glastonbury Retrospective in Partnership with Greenpeace.