|GC on a 1950 Vincent | pictured on the TT Course (Isle of Mann) | 2007|
Crowley is one of the guest judges for the forthcoming ‘Open Competition at Core Gallery for Deptford X 2010’, where eighteen artists have been selected from an outstanding pool of entries from across the world. I speak to him to find out; his views on the education system, ‘modern art’ and what it was like to be a student in the revolutionary 60’s.
CP: How did you and the other judges arrive at a selection for Core Gallery's Deptford X 2010 Open Competition?
|Selected Artists | Open submission competition for Deptford X | 2010|
CP: What is the significance of 'independent' competitions such as the Core Gallery's Open Competition?
CP: What will you take into consideration when curating the show for ‘Core Gallery’s Deptford X 2010 Competition’?
|Spider with Mushroom Soup | 1982 | Oil on canvas |122 x 92 cm|
|Head (2) | 1977 | Acrylic on canvas |153 x 92 cm|
The ‘dominant discourse’ was conceptualism. As a student at St Martins I got involved in performance and wrote ‘plays about plays’. But I’d always had this love-hate relationship with painting. So when painting became almost demonised in the early 1970’s; I thought “That’s for me”. I had now learnt not to seek approval. As a painter I cherish the legacy of a ‘conceptual’ education. My generation received, what some regard as the apotheosis of a ‘liberal education’.
|Blue Drift |2010 | oil on canvas | 114 x 137 cm|
I’m currently making landscape paintings that I regard as synthetic. Synthetic paintings exist simultaneously as object (the thing itself) and illusion (window on the world); the legacy of Manet.
|Red Drift 3 |2010 | oil on canvas | 114 x 137 cm|
CP: What is so captivating about your work is your intense involvement and assurance with the medium of paint. Could you describe some of the techniques you employ?
|Farm on the Sheep's Head |1998 | oil on canvas | 178 x 152 cm|
Flower Arranging (6) | 1998 | Oil on canvas |178 x 152 cm
Over the last 30 years I’ve employed a variety of methods including grisaille, impasto but most importantly glazing. Glazing has shown me why colours such as Payne’s Gray, Davy’s Gray, Indian Yellow, Transparent Golden Ochre and Rose Dore exist. Glazing is to painting what ‘ambient’ is to music. I’ve always been fascinated in ‘how things work’. I think it’s my ‘diet’ of Meccano, The Eagle and The Boys’ Own Paper in the 1950’s and 60’s.
I have the sensibility of a * ‘rodder’ rather than a poet. I think contemporary practice is becoming increasingly located in the vernacular. It’s important to study every aspect of painting, if only because knowledge presents choice; historical, theoretical and practical. I also consider carefully, the composition of my paintings, as every aspect of a painting carries meaning.
Flower Arranging (1) | 1988/92 | Oil on canvas |178 x 152 cm
CP: In your most recent works, do you feel you have revitalised landscape painting through your use of colour?
GC: I’m currently in a group show of past John Moores Prizewinners in Korea. I have a one man show at Churchill College in March next year and I’ll be giving a lecture about my painting whilst the exhibition is on. I’ve plans for a graphic project; a mix of artist’s book and a semi-fictionalised graphic autobiography. (About 13 years ago I collaborated with Stuart Hood and Richard Appignanesi on a graphic book about the Marquis de Sade). I’m also starting work on some new paintings about South London with reference to The Ash Can School. For some years now, I’ve been fascinated by The Ash Can School (Sloan, Davis, Luks, etc) and their leftist publication The Masses. They were written out of American art history during the McCarthy years; Post-Second World War. They remain almost unknown in Europe and the UK. I’ve also been influenced by the Canadian David Milne.
It's a matter of recorded fact that 'modern art' has been institutionalised, commodified and is about as edgy as a j-cloth. It should come as no surprise that the rhetoric of modernism has found its place in tabloid journalism.
Contemporary art is a different matter. It's a moveable feast - it's what's happening now, by definition. Contemporary art doesn‟t even look like „Modern art‟. Modern art is a manifestation of an historical movement that has long been in decline. It doesn't speak to me any longer. It has always been an instrument of capital, celebrity and the media. Only now it's also an instrument of 'pikey'* culture. As far as I'm concerned Sky, The Daily Mail (et al), Heat, Simon Cowell and Charles Saatchi can have it. Popular culture was once a celebration of working class creativity. It's now a tool of oppression, and no amount of irony can redeem it.
CP: Thank you Graham Crowley, it has been a fascinating interview!