I am a huge fan of Gregory Cewsdon and I just love trying to deconstruct his work. This is the first time that I have seen an exhibition of his though and it was certainly worth the trip up to London from the West Country.
As ever, Crewsdon crafts his images to an obsessive degree – his attention to detail is phenomenal. The environment, the people, the light, the props etc. are brought together to provide signifying elements for the viewer to decode in the true spirit of post modernism.
I like to approach his work without researching it beforehand. This is to enable my mind to play with my detective instincts in the knowing though, that the Who? What? Why? Where? and When? may never be completely resolved. The size of the prints enabled a voyeuristic sensation. A witness.
The exhibition was split into three galleries – for no other reason than space. There seemed to be two distinct sets within one body of work. Outdoors and indoors. The outdoor photographs had the familiar Crewsdon dystopian feel to them. The photographs were based in pine forests and in each of them, there was a sense of claustrophobia. Where females were present, they look awkward and absent in a ‘dead behind the eyes’ way. They were surviving something. Maybe they were surviving their distant memories and / or fighting their demons of yesteryear that were resurfacing in the here and now. Other signification of dirty washing, rivers, nakedness, derelict call boxes etc sought to provide hints of history and lost hope. The only photograph which wasn’t overtly depressing was of one male and two female 17 year olds next to a pool of water. Perhaps this denoted that start of sexual encounters that would lead to feelings of disappointment loss, regret and grubbiness later on in life? A very pretty location for this it was, but there was an element of foreboding claustrophobia all the same; an inevitability that the ‘still waters’ of their life would change.
The other distinct set, was based within a remote residential community in the 1970’s. The interiors were of that time. Drab interior cladding, muddy coloured carpets and furniture. No IT was present – not even a TV come to think of it. Some of the props were apparent in several of the photographs. I came to a conclusion that if a nearly empty glass of dark fluid was positioned next to somebody in the frame, then this signified a life near its end, with dark emotions attached. If a a half full or more glass of water was present, then this signified a purer life. The titles of books gave other clues along with medication, veteran ribbons etc.
Every image depicted a sense of tension in relationships, isolation and despondency as the reality of life and all it throws up; baying wolves who creep up onto their preyed upon victims . Crewsdon bring the landscape of the home and the remote forestry region together to maximum effect that would resonate profoundly with people with a certain amount of life experience under their belt.
Without a doubt there were influences of 19th century landscapes and some of the lighting of the photographs had a hint of Dutch oil portraiture.
Once home, I read the interview with Gregory Crewsdon where he explain his personal circumstances (after his divorce and moving to the area) had influenced his work in a way that it hadn’t done before. It made complete sense. The book refers to literary inspiration that I hadn’t been aware of as I haven’t been much of a reader for varying reason.
The exhibition book is beautifully crafted and provides conversation with Crewsdon and other reviews and I will go back to it time and again.
Crewsdon was the inspiration for my A5 Context and Narrative assignment