Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Graham Crowley
Beaux Arts, London
21 February 2001

End of the Season, 2000
Oil on canvas 91 x 152cm

One of my first visits to a commercial gallery in London as a student and remember the atmosphere being fairly intimidating. Nice gallery, very frosty staff! Still, managed to hold my nerve and ask to look at the catalogue and survey the paintings for 20 minutes or so.

A series of large contemporary landscape paintings of scenes from around the west coast of Ireland done in two different styles.

The first type was done in a thick impasto style with thin glazes over the top and not to my taste at all. The second, and for me much more interesting, also used glazes, but was much flatter and had different colour glazes added wet into wet. This was an idea that was quite influential as my own style evolved, albeit used in a totally different way to Crowley. Despite the two style there was a unity about the exhibition and my predominate emotion was one of sadness. Looking back now I think the paintings are quite open, allowing room for one’s own interpretation – but at the time I was very conscious of the dabs of colour as “blots” on the landscape. Definitely not a “picture postcard” take on the landscape – more one of man’s intervention, but without resorting to photographic clichés.

I have picked The End of the Season, as the best representative of this luminously painted group. It depicts a campsite at the end of the summer season with just a few tents remaining and lots of pale patches of grass, where tents once were pitched. The bulk of the painting is in acidic yellows and greens, the latter depicting the trees and their shadows as well as the structure of the few scattered dwellings. These dwellings are embellished with flat patches of pastel colours, breaking up the uniformity of the surface. The overall impression is of a yellow sun going down on the right of the painting leaving long strong shadows. It is the end of the day at the end of the season.

I couldn’t say if he had worked from photographs or his own drawings, but the details, particularly of the trees are gestural and are more about painterly interpretation than realism. Strange decision to include the overhead telephone/power lines – perhaps just emphasising the connection with the world at large. We seem to have a point of view from the top of a telegraph pole. Depth in the painting is handled mainly by the scale of the trees, houses and tents.

Although I felt only sadness when I first encountered his work, I can now detect a sense of humour, particularly related to the brushwork. The catalogue tells me he draws inspiration from Constable, Morandi, Guston, Corot and Breughel amongst others and I can see how these artists have contributed to his language. Despite this, the predominately monochrome colour schemes and nostalgic references to times past within the landscape, transcend the rhetoric, reinforcing the melancholic character of the paintings for me.

©blackdog 2009

1 comment:

  1. My first impression: a sun-lit English countryside, beautiful, deep colours- sun-yellow-reen, but some artificial (poisonous yellow/knallig gelb ,-green/giftgrün)- at second sight I detect that the houses are sinking in the earth, half-hidden, they seem to vanish, whereas the tents which don't fit the landscape, they look like an alien element, remain -for ever?- supposedly a kind of critical-humorous sight, maybe, also a kind of melancholy- the lovely landscape might be soon destroyed by the mass of tourists who like to invade into those regions without respecting their natural beauty, the green looks already a bit like crushed underfoot, a bit dissolved, there might be going on a clash of different worlds- self in the "end of the season" after the most caravans and tents have left the campsite. The little old-fasioned houses fit the landscape, their roofs have the same green clour like the trees! A pic with some faces!