James Hyman Fine Art is honoured to present a major exhibition by British artist Dennis Creffield of new drawings and paintings specially commissioned on the theme of Jerusalem.
In the extensively illustrated publication that accompanies the exhibition, James Hyman explains the origins of these pictures:
'In May 2007, I paid a visit to Dennis Creffield's studio in Brighton and as we talked over lunch the idea for an exhibition grew. I proposed a commission based on Jerusalem/William Blake that might bring together many of the themes that Creffield has explored over the decades: a bringing together of the literal and the metaphoric, the corporeal and the spiritual, the historical and the personal, the London of Blake's Jerusalem and the actual city held holy by multiple faiths. Fifteen years earlier I had selected Dennis Creffield for the exhibition British Figurative Art of the Twentieth Century (British Council, 1992), which travelled to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, as a result of which the artist travelled to the Holy Land for the first time. Appropriately, Dennis Creffield. Jerusalem includes drawings and paintings from that time, as well as more recent depictions of St. Paul's Cathedral. Curiously, what unites so many of these pictures is the form of a dome, from the Dome of the Rock to Christopher Wren's St Paul's and on to Blake's domed forehead. Indeed, Blake himself became an obsession for Creffield and his life cast stares out from its place on the artist's studio desk. As Blake became Creffield's companion, so he became the subject of portrait drawings: a daily conversation through the act of drawing. I am excited that our own conversation has resulted in this extraordinary body of new pictures.
For Creffield, 80 years old this year, the past remains a powerful presence. Peter Ackroyd has described this as 'a continuing inheritance' for Creffield, which is characterised as 'an instinct towards a religious, almost medieval, vision'. Following Creffield's depiction of the great Cathedrals of England and France, and of National Trust properties such as Petworth, this exhibition includes unseen pictures of both London and Jerusalem. It also includes a remarkable series of heads depicting the life cast of William Blake, which follow earlier imaginative portraits of historical figures such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Horatio Nelson.
Like Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, Creffield established his reputation as one of David Bomberg's most powerful and original students. Since then, as both a painter and draughtsman, Creffield has gained countless awards and commissions. The late Colin St. John Wilson was a great champion, as was R.B.Kitaj, who described Creffield as 'England's most closely guarded secret'. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see works by Creffield in depth and to marvel at the extraordinary accomplishment of his mark-making and economic ability to evoke emotion.
Dennis Creffield was born in London in 1931. He studied with David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic, London 1948-51 and at the Slade School of Fine Art, London 1957-61 (winner of the Tonks Prize for Life Drawing and the Steer Medal for Landscape Painting). A prizewinner at the John Moore's Liverpool Exhibition, 1961, awarded the Gregory Fellowship in Painting at the University of Leeds 1964-68, recipient Arts Council Major Award for Painting in 1977 and an Abbey Scholarship at the British School in Rome in 1997. Creffield's many commissions include an Arts Council project to draw all the Medieval Cathedrals of England in 1987. Dennis Creffield's works appears in many public galleries including the Arts Council, the Los Angeles County Museum and the Tate.