Extreme Shetland weather inspires painter

Issue date: 15 February 2010

Janette's work from Shetland A Visiting Research Fellow from the University of the West of England has been awarded funding by The Arts Council England for a research and development project that links science with art focusing on the Shetland Islands.

Dr Janette Kerr, who is currently spending a month on Shetland, carrying out the project, is a painter whose research relates to an on-going interest in making paintings that explore the movement of sea, air and light.

The project, will make direct visual associations between observational and experiential field work, such as work on Extreme Wave Theory by Norwegian scientists and mathematicians and link this to the material culture of danger – historic storms and tragedies that are part of Shetland's history and narratives.

Janette, says, “My process of making paintings involves extremes and instabilities: peripheral vision, peripheries and promontories - sites of instability and unknowing, places of rapid change and sudden shifts both physically and meteorologically.

“There is a contrast in the way I respond as an artist and the way a mathematician or a scientists sees these things. For example comparing the very precise and scientific procedures that they employ in studying the sea and the unpredictability of waves and wind, with the way I, as an artist work, there seems, on the face of it, to be such a contrast in process. However, despite very different ways of working, (they measure with scientific precision while I 'measure' through feeling and intuition) both artist and scientist seek the same end: to come to an understanding of nature.”

“Shetland experiences one of the highest wave energy environments in the world, exposed to the full force of the Atlantic, generating high winds and agitated sea. My journey here was auspiciously in keeping with the aims of the project. I experienced the effect of high winds on the sea, which kept me awake most of the night, with the noise of the ferry battling against gale-force wind and the constant swell and roll of the boat.”

During her time on the island Janette has been out drawing in the snow, being blown across cliff-tops, and experiencing the dramatic changes in the landscape. She has also been meeting local archivists, story-tellers and sea-farers, and witnessing Shetland's famous Up Helly Aa fire festival.

Janette has been keeping a blog of her experiences on Shetland:

Work emerging from the project will be shown later on in the year at the Bower Ashton Campus of the University of the West of England as part of a travelling/work-in-progress exhibition.


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