Janette Kerr is a painter deeply embedded in place, working at the interface between land, sea and historical experience. She writes, ‘My paintings represent immediate responses to sound and silences within the landscape around me; they are about movement and the rhythms of sea and wind, swelling and breaking waves, the merging of spray with air, advancing rain and mist, glancing sunlight - elements that seem to be about something intangible.’
Called ‘the best painter of the sea in these islands’ by Brian Fallon, Chief Critic of the Irish Times, Kerr delights in foul weather. Drawn to the perimeters of land, her work is an index of edges and ledges, exposed headlands and wind-swept seas. She writes: ‘My process of making paintings involves extremes and instabilities: peripheries and promontories – places of rapid change and shifts, both physically and meteorologically’.
Kerr is not somebody who makes meticulous studies of landscape. Beyond mere topography, but with a nod towards the Northern Romantic tradition in landscape painting, her practice remains contemporary and experimental. For the last 12 years, her work has focussed on Shetland, where she has a studio and house on the west side, close to the sea.
She travels extensively - always to wild sea and weather-scoured places that look northwards. Working alongside Norwegian oceanographers at the Meteorological Institute in Bergen in 2015, studying the unpredictability of waves and wind, had a profound influence on her work. In 2016 she sailed along the coast of Svalbard in the High Arctic on board a tall ship called the Antigua with a group of international artists. During 2020 she walked in snow storms on an international residency in Skagastrond, NW Iceland.
Kerr has a strong track record of initiating/working collaboratively, in 2017 working with film and sound artist Jo Millett and sound artist Rob Gawthrop to develop Confusing Shadow with Substance, a film and sound installation based on an 18th century haaf fishing station in Shetland, which toured during 2021/22. During covid, they set up the Stenness Sound Walk using GPS technology on the beach at Stenness, Northmavine, in collaboration with the art collective, Satsymph (see also a review by Alastair Hamilton: sound walk technology ).
More recently, in 2022, she received funding from Creative Scotland which enabled her to spend 2 months in Greenland, living in a remote settlement called Oqaatsut, and to initiate a solargraphic community project linking Shetland and Greenland through images and field recordings.
Kerr has a PhD in Fine Art, is an Hon Royal Scottish Academician, RWA Academician, and Past President of the Royal West of England Academy of Art.
Exhibiting regularly across the UK and abroad, her work is held in national and international collections.
She writes about her practice and residencies; if you are interested please have a look at her Blogs: