Janette Kerr is a painter deeply embedded in place. She works at the interface between land, sea and historical experience. 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. For the last ten years, her focus has been drawn to Shetland and the far north. Ian McKay*, editor of Art North, describes Kerr as 'a creative nomad, with a calling northward and a finely-honed understanding of what some might consider 'remote' northern terrain'.
Kerr travels extensively–always to wild sea and weather-scoured places. She sailed along the coast of Svalbard in the High Arctic onboard a tall ship called the Antigua with a group of international artists. More recently she has been on an international residency in Skagaströnd in the northwest corner of Iceland. In Norway, she worked alongside Norwegian oceanographers at the meteorological Institute in Bergen studying the unpredictability of waves and wind, which had a profound influence on her work. And of course we have Shetland, which is the focus of the paintings in this current exhibition.
Kerr presents us with 20 recent paintings that she relates to the historic Meteorological Office 'State of Sea Card' (devised by Irish Royal Navy officer, Francis Beaufort in the early 19th century). Each painting refers to descriptions that represent the state of the sea.
As Kerr explains: the basic driver of sea state is the wind. The stronger the wind, the greater the distance (the fetch) over which it blows unimpeded, and the longer it blows, the bigger the waves. The World Meteorological Organization gives thirteen sea conditions for the Beaufort wind scale, from zero to twelve (calm to hurricane).