Meet Jethro Jackson
We visited contemporary artist Jethro Jackson’s studio to learn more about his work, ahead of his upcoming residency at Watergate Bay.
Born and bred
“I’m born and bred Cornish, so Cornwall will always be home for me,” explains Jethro, who works from his studio just outside Rock in north Cornwall.
“I love travelling and seeing different places, but as soon as I get back to Cornwall and spend time in the landscape, I look around and think, ‘Why would I be anywhere else?’ You only have to visit Kynance Cove or Cadgwith once and sit on the beach or go for a swim, and before you know it, you’ll be coming back. It’s a total and utter magnet.”
This lure of the Cornish landscape – and the layers of history woven within, from mining to modernist art – is clear to see in Jethro’s work. From luminous seascapes to abstract paintings inspired by days aboard a fishing boat, a kind of tidal creativity runs through his practice.
We dive deeper into his inspirations and aspirations…
Watergate Bay has long been one of Jethro’s favourite surf spots:
“As soon as we had a car and could get out on our own, my brother and I would go surfing at Watergate Bay. And now I really enjoy taking my kids there for a potter around. It’s just a great beach. It’s got so much space and then there’s The Beach Hut for grabbing a coffee or a hot chocolate. But for me, it’s always been surfing and the time in the water that’s been the real draw to Watergate Bay.”
Cornwall is a constant source of artistic inspiration:
“The Cornish landscape – the views and the aesthetic – has been the primary drive for my work. More recently, I’ve been interested in Cornwall’s heritage – its mining history, fishing and farming industries. And also, the arts scene that came out of post-war St Ives, with artists like Nicholson, Scott, Lanyon, and Hepworth. Being Cornish myself, I feel a real connection to their work – especially Lanyon. He had this incredibly intimate interaction with the landscape, but his paintings also cut a new path. Lanyon’s thought process and energy are very much with me when I work.”
Leaping into abstraction
“Over the last two years, my work has changed from views and seascapes. And the main reason for that change was the Covid lockdown. It was the first time in ten years where I’ve managed to take a breath and have a moment to pause.
“I wasn’t disillusioned with landscape painting, but I felt like I was treading water and needed something new to re-generate ideas and re-spark a sense of energy. My plan was to create some abstract paintings as a sort of cathartic sabbatical, but it turned out to be two of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life.
“Once I started, I couldn’t stop painting abstracts – the work itself and the drive to do it was all-consuming. So much so that I’m now completely committed to that new series and body of work.
“It’s still landscape-based – and I’m so happy that my past paintings informed the work I’m doing now – but there’s a more multi-layered narrative.”
Upcoming hotel residency
His upcoming residency at Watergate Bay will tap into the energy and emotion of the beach:
“I’m really excited about my residency at Watergate Bay Hotel, mainly because it gives me a chance to produce a series of paintings which have an element of transition from my previous work to what I’m doing now with the more abstract pieces.
“The series will be a response to the space and what the beach means to people. So all those memories and sensations of the Cornish landscape and our interaction with it – whether that’s surfing, dog walking, or a pint on the deck.
“I’m only at Watergate for a finite amount of time, so my process when I’m there will be creating a collection of drawings to inform the paintings and also talking to the guests, asking if they’ve been before, what they love about the place, what draws them to it. It’ll be those sorts of emotions and that sense of connectivity that will hopefully drive the series forward.”
Days at sea
Days at sea in a fishing boat inspired his recent exhibition, Impermanent Horizon:
“In 2021, I spent time on a small fishing boat with a great friend of mine called Sam.
I’d never drawn at sea before and, as you can imagine, pretty quickly I got really quite seasick! But before I knew it, I was absorbed in watching Sam’s process and his unbelievable ability to follow so many variables – from the birds to the fish, the movement of the tide, the current, the drift and the rocks beneath the surface. That’s when I started to think about how I could translate this sensation and this world Sam inhabits into a series of paintings. Out of that came Impermanent Horizon.”
Passionate about protecting and preserving the ocean:
“Heading out fishing with Sam on his small day-boat, the idea of sustainability became more important to me.
“Sam fishes only with a rod and line and something called a gurdy, which pulls the mackerel in. It’s a simplified, low-impact process. The quality of the fish he catches – most of it is eaten raw – and the pure respect that Sam and the chefs he supplies, like Nathan Outlaw, have for it, is inspiring. It left me feeling that we need to respect the ocean and its resources and realise that eating fish should be a celebration; a very special thing.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not perfect. I’m very much a voyeur as all artists are, but I’ve worked with charities like Beach Guardian [£1000 from the sale of each of Jackson’s ‘Golden Swell’ prints goes to Beach Guardian, a local charity working to empower communities against plastic waste] and I’m hoping to work with them again.”
Abstraction has opened up new avenues for his work:
“The wonderful thing about abstraction, for me, is that it’s not purely the aesthetic of a beautiful view. There’s something deeper for people to unpick if they want to; the opportunity to say something more; and that’s the bit I find exciting.”
His Watergate Bay series will show a fresh perspective:
“When I’ve painted Watergate in the past, I focused on aspects of the view that have a vanishing point. So I’d be looking to Porth Island and then the cliffs. And I think that will still be a focus during my residency, but I’m going to try and look afresh with slightly different eyes.
“If you stop and look, there are some really lovely elements of abstraction going on around the hotel, like looking through a window into another window and the space beyond. So I think that’s going to draw my attention, which means I’ll probably be bouncing around all over the place!”
Twelve Trees of Christmas
This December, we're telling twelve inspiring sustainability tales across twelve trees here at Watergate Bay....
Musician in residence: Joe Kirby
Our first musician in residence kicks off between 16 - 19 November. We caught up...
Round-up: Arts on the Beach
Children bounced to the beat, air-borne dancers soared and towering puppets stopped revellers in their...
Things to do in Cornwall
A selection of our favourite places to visit and events in Cornwall. Gardens, power boat...
Adrift: Lego Lost at Sea
Explore the tiny, colourful and downright odd finds washing up on our shores at the...