I was keen to see the Victoria Crowe Retrospective Exhibition at the Edinburgh Art Centre. I did not know much about this contemporary artist but was hugely impressed by the exhibition and her work. I came away with lots of ideas and inspiration. My interest was captured as soon as I entered the exhibition with this image:
and some words written for Crowe by Alan Spence as follows:
All about the Light (for Victoria Crowe)
“Ultimately it’s all about the light –
catching the light, celebrating the light.
the light of consciousness by which we see
the light that comes at last to know itself,
the self-revealing light in everything,
within, without. It’s all about the light.
Circumspice – look and the world’s made new.
It’s all about, it shines in the clear light.
Behold and be beholden. Look and see
the sheer particularity of things.
Snow moment. Winter fence. Numinous tree.
Considered silence. Hidden moon. Blue thaw.
Dark dog and hillside. Shape of the shadow.
Reflected contemplation. Lying snow.
Praise the everyday, the vision, the dream.
Ultimately it’s all about the light.”
As a photographer I believe that image making is all about light – it might be good or bad in other people’s terms, but to me it is just light. The quality of the light gives luminosity, contrast and tonality to an image – in my view without it an image will lack vitality and not have the energy to capture the imagination and attention of the viewer. However, sometimes I and others do forget this fact. It is the ever-changing light on the Isle of Skye that has led me to settle there.
The next image in the exhibition was this one:
I have a fascination with lone trees in the landscape and spent much of Informing Contexts photographing a silver birch in the shadow of the Cuillin. This is one of the images that I submitted in my portfolio:
Moving on through the Exhibition, Crowe’s work The Shepherd’s Life, paintings created over a twenty year period of her neighbour Jenny Armstrong, were breathtaking:
Crowe explains her technique as follows:
“I begin with acute observation. Then imagination and association transform objective reality into a complex personal dialogue, evolve layers of meaning elaborated by personal memories, set against the vastness of historical time.” (Crowe 1999: 32).
This resonated with me, particularly in terms of my portfolio for Sustainable Prospects on the reeds of Loch Cill Chriosd. I spent many hours in the landscape observing the loch, remembering some of the ghosts of my time as a police photographer, and seeking to develop levels of meaning through metaphor and abstraction.
I enjoyed the focus and narrowing down of my work in Sustainable Prospects whereas in Informing Contexts I broadened the focus to reveal different aspects of the essence of Skye.
My favourite paintings in the exhibition were those of trees in the landscape and in particular the following display of the image and words written to accompany the painting. The quality of my photograph is poor because of the lighting but I wanted to share the presentation in the gallery:
I experimented with adding my own words to my images in Sustainable Prospects and this example renewed my interest and commitment to trying this again in my Final Major Project. I will discuss this with my book designer in due course.
This could turn into a lengthy post as I was so inspired by Victoria Crowe’s work but here are few of the notes I penned on the way of home on things to think about and consider as I move forward with my Final Major Project:
- There was a glass cabinet exhibiting some of Crowe’s drawings from her Sketchbook – I keep a Photographer’s Journal and wonder whether extracts from this might be incorporated into the book I plan to produce.
- I really enjoyed the films about Victoria’s work – how she approaches her painting and the thinking behind what she does. I would like to consider producing something similar for my website – not necessarily as part of my Final Major Project but beyond the MA.
- I enjoyed the film and classical music combination Schubert Winterreise – A Parallel Journey with a projection of Victoria’s work running behind a pianist and opera singer. I would like to consider combining a film of the production of my book alongside some classical music.
- I like the format of A Shepherd’s Life by Victoria Crowe (see below). I prefer the square format which might work well with my current work of square seascapes:
And finally, another approach that took my eye was what might be termed sequential or composite paintings – that is when more than one image are superimposed together. This is particularly evident in her Venice paintings and those when she depicted her son:
and these two – the top one is entitled “Observed Sequence”.
And this reflecting the observation of the sequence of a single day:
I have a number of ideas inspired by seeing these paintings in terms of how I might combine some of my images to develop the narrative of my imagery.
Crowe, V. 2000. A Shepherd’s Life. Edinburgh: Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotlands for the exhibition A Shepherd’s Life
Crowe, V. 1999. Interview with Clare Henry in the catalogue for “Victoria Crowe”. Thackeray Gallery, London. 20 October – 6 November 1999.
Mansfield, S. 2019. Victoria Crowe – 50 Years of Painting. Bristol: Sansom and Company.