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'Extreme Wave Theory' Exhibition at Bonhoga

by Deborah Leggate -

Extreme Wave Theory by Janette Kerr

With so much focus on the sea this summer, and ships arriving from across the world for the Tall Ships Race in July, Shetland Arts is delighted to be staging a major show of work by Janette Kerr RWA, a painter whose monumental seascapes are based largely on her time spent in Shetland.

Janette Kerr is a foul-weather painter. Drawn to the perimeters of land, her work is an index of edges and ledges, exposed headlands and wind-swept seas.

"My process of making paintings involves extremes and instabilities: peripheries and promontories - sites of instability and unknowing, places of rapid change and shifts both physically and meteorologically".

Her exhibition Extreme Wave Theory relates to an on-going research project concerning the interface between art and science. It incorporates the history and stories of the sea surrounding Shetland, and the work of Norwegian oceanographers studying the unpredictability of waves and wind. Her large-scale drawings and canvases are a direct response to the environment and the traditions inherent within it.

Through extended visits to Shetland and Norway in the last year, she has amassed a kind of "non-intentional" personal archive. Kerr has been walking the coastline and watching the sea, engaging in open dialogues with Norwegian mathematicians and scientists searching the oceans for extreme waves, with Shetland fishermen who know their sea and coastline intimately, and tell tales of storms, massive waves and near escapes, and delving into the archives for old documents and artefacts relating to fishing.

"I've been out on the sea – in the voes with a Scalloway creel fisherman, travelled with the pilot boat from Sullom Voe oil terminal to meet a tanker from India, I've clung to the sides of a tiny ferry on route to the Outer Skerries, waves washing over the deck as we pitched and rolled in a force 8 while I attempted to draw. I've sat in snow painting and drawing until my fingers froze, have been blown by gusts of wind, drenched by spray and sleet, returning home with salt-encrusted skin".

The outcome of all this is a body of work that seeks to make direct visual associations between observational, archival and oral research, and oceanographic measurement.

Jane Matthews of Shetland Arts said, "it is a privilege to be showing Janette's work, she is a prolific artist whose work recreates the awesome spectacle and power of the sea, her huge paintings and drawings are wild and majestic and will resonate with everyone who has a relationship with the sea. And who, after all, does not in a place like Shetland?!" The exhibition is on until Sunday 14th August.

In addition to Extreme Wave Theory, two exhibitions will be opening in the Lower Gallery/café: The Booth Collection, celebrating 10 years of artists at The Booth studio in Scalloway and Shetland Made featuring selected work from the Arts and Craft Association.

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