Ultima Thule – An Exhibition of paintings by John Kent | 12th May – 8th June

Dates: 12th May – 8th June 2022
Times: 10am-5pm
Location: Studio 12, Backwater Artists Group, Wandesford Quay
OpenIng Reception: 12th May, 6pm-8pm, All Welcome
Tours: Free 20-minute exhibition tour every Thursday at 1pm. For more information email aoife@backwaterartists.ie.

“Ultima Thule” is a philosophical term for the furthest known place. From the personal point of view of a practitioner working in abstraction, it is an appropriate name for this body of work. Here, the artist is in a constant mode of searching, yet the act of searching can lead the artist down paths and to places that were not the original intended destination.  Using techniques such as layering and washing, choice of colour and motif – an overarching architype develops and a language forms. This is a selection of paintings on paper and canvas that examines a journey of experimentation and consolidation. “Ultima Thule” invites the viewer to interrogate and experience a similar journey, using the works as a map.

Artist Statement 

I am heavily influenced by the idea of language, its interpretation through consciousness, and the cognitive mechanisms behind the act of understanding. I am influenced by the concept of modern hermeneutics, the philosophy of interpretation through the lens of existentialism blending this into a meta-modernist approach within my artistic outputs. In utilising the language of painting, my practice conveys a tangible understanding to the more innate qualities of human existence. In this sense, my work draws from multidisciplinary approaches (such as neuroscience, philosophy and psychology) that observe the mind. Using these as a departure point, I approach painting with curiosity, creating a common ground between academic and artistic practice. I draw from these influences, allowing these to guide the further interplay between artist and viewer. In challenging this, I have found theories such as hermeneutics to provide great insight into how I approach the actual process of painting. I implement various techniques like the application and removal of paint to create a heavily layered and intense sense of history in my work, representing the layering of processes as shaped by the multidisciplinary influences.

The final layers give the impression of spontaneity, yet there is a labour that is visible and bares an earnest truth. My paintings are multi-layered, abstract works that invite interpretation from the viewer, drawing further engagement despite seeming austere and enigmatic at first glance. This serves as a function to lead the viewer into experiencing the very phenomena I am influenced by. This grounding in theory and how this influences my practice has arisen throughout my work since completing my master’s degree in Art & Process in 2018. During the MA, I engaged critically with the perspective of my viewers and how my approach and intent as an artist can augment this. Critically engaging with the manner in which my pieces hold space and can encourage deeper engagement. In this sense, my paintings share many abstracted archetypes and themes relating to dualities, superposition, and gradient colours and layering which are symptomatic of the philosophical movement: meta-modernism. I embrace how the viewer can interpret their own meaning form my work as I recognise my intention as the creator is different; I have my own prerogative. The act of inquisition is where we intersect.


John Kent (1989) was born in Cork, graduating from the Crawford College of Art & Design in 2012 he was awarded a Post-Graduate Residency at the Backwater Artist Group for his degree show. Since then, he has practiced from the studio and produced four solo exhibitions across the country of Ireland and has participated in numerous group shows. In 2018, he completed an MA in Art & Process at the Crawford College of Art and Design and was awarded the Individual Artist Bursary by the Cork City Council in 2020.

Kent’s work is influenced by the idea of language, its interpretation through consciousness, and cognitive mechanisms behind the act of understanding. In utilising the language of painting, his intention is to convey a tangible understanding to the more innate qualities of human existence.