School of Art
Landscape Capriccios - the landscape of the mind29 November 2004 – 28 January 2005
Gallery I & II : 42 paintings
“His home has become an inspiration to him and the From Windy Hill series are significant essays in a traditional genre. Crawford travels, as it were, with a number of landscape artists, producing some stunning results. They are intimate landscapes, taken from his own home, the view he sees every day. For that they will become one of the great series of landscape art in Wales.”
A Return to Wales, Paul Joyner 2001
From the very start, as a boy at school, I have been interested in drawing places, both landscape and architecture, the Spirit of Place. This interest has also taken me on several travels to foreign lands. But I noticed, early on, that no matter how far you travel you can only ever find yourself; ‘out there,’ more often than not, is really ‘in here.’ I did, however, try to portray the essence of places, in that, to me, ‘Italy’ does not look like ‘Wales’, although this concept is rare in the history or art (Whistler is the exception). And it never went down too well with the gallery dealers who prefer the repetitious continuance of a (hopefully) successful motif.
In 2000 I returned to oil painting which I had abandoned in 1964 at the end of my second year at art school when I opted to specialise in textile design. In 2000 I also let go (momentarily) of my long standing love affair with paper (drawings, paintings, prints, photographs). It also registered sharply when Kyffin Williams said that you should only paint what you know, really know, not foreign fields, foreign subjects. On my return to oil painting I concentrated on a return, after an absence of a few years, to a depiction of the Welsh landscape. I ended up painting what exists outside my door at Brynawel, thus the Windy Hill and Horizon series. I always feel that it is my role to allow a picture to become what it wants to be. Some did not want to fit into the specified Welsh motif I was demanding but I fought them into submission. Afterwards, what had begun to happen in my brain began to demand more attention. While it was always the case that, in order to distil the essence of a place, my picture could well end up a capriccio, a composite, as with Richard Wilson, this time, some of my Return to Wales were demanding to be ‘Scotland’ which, given my diaspora, I have curiously never used as subject matter since I left in 1968. (The exception was a series I made in 1987-90 as a memory of the Scottish fishing industry.)
Thus, in 2004 the landscape, that is, my landscape, became a much more emotional journey, where feeling, mood, mystery, is dictating more than the need to be accurate about the details of ‘place’. ‘Landscape’ has become a metaphor, for living, so that now you may be looking at ‘Wales’, or ‘Scotland’ or both simultaneously, or nowhere at all. Since I had spent so many of my years denying my Spartan, wind swept, north-east of Scotland, after I fell in love with the sensuous Mediterranean south on that first visit to Italy in 1970, it certainly surprised me to have a recent visit from Casper David Friedrich and the gothic north. Isn’t life very strange?
Alistair Crawford, November 2004.