Graham Crowley: A Love of Many Things
I used to volunteer at Peterborough’s Art Gallery during my first year of six form, which involved me supporting the public and school parties’ navigation of the gallery. Alongside this, I was responsible for designing children’s activity sheets to accompany exhibitions ensuring visits were inclusive and engaging. I hadn’t returned to the gallery since this and therefore it was strange to go back and see how it had changed over the past three years.
The main reason that I wanted to visit was to see the current exhibition show casing work from the artist Graham Crowley. His paintwork on display spanned the range of different styles of his ‘Greatest Hits’. ‘A Love of Many Things’ refers to Crowley’s multiple hobbies, interests and obsessions over the past 40 years with many inspiring his paintings.
Because of the multiple artistic styles positioned around the space, it was as if I was looking at the work of five or six different painters, all whom had responded to their experience over time - the outcomes greatly contrasted in techniques and aesthetic. This to me suggested that the artist had made steep transitions throughout the years in terms of his obsessions and passions.
I also found it rather fascinating witnessing the way Crowley uses colour across all of his works. Each piece had a very limited colour palette but he used it in a clever way to create interest; for example, a small insert of colour on one section would interrupt a duo-toned piece. Every piece was made up of bold block colour, with very little pattern or decoration, however, texture was created using oil paint. This also meant that the artist left a large section of negative space on pieces where the focal point only spanned one third or a half of the canvas. Stark lines were used, as well as rough mark making that remained effective despite the sporadic and almost simplistic approach. Some of his canvas choices were also interesting; wood and peg boards were used which I would have never thought to paint on before.
Many of the works on display were abstract and figurative, and largely inspired by travel. A few of the works illustrated the same subject and destination, but from different angles, magnification and/or were presented in a different colour scheme. There was similarly a juxtaposition between the dystopian city spaces and the brightly coloured landscapes. I would say that Crowley enjoys challenging perceptions with his paintings; his large monochromatic flower studies contrast traditional flower paintings, which are usually small scale boldly coloured and intricate pieces.
What made the exhibition even more engaging was the fact that many of Graham’s paintings were accompanied by the subjects which inspired them, including a full size handmade classic custom motorcycle based on a 1937 OK Supreme. This brought another dimension to the artwork and really helped me appreciate the stimuli that were the base for the works. I always find it interesting to see the obscure things that individuals get their inspiration and ideas from.