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Victoria Crowe Reflection – New Work 6 August – 4 September 2010

The Scottish Gallery 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ Tel 0131 558 1200 Email

Front cover: Landscape – Duality (detail) oil on linen 76 x 91 cms

1 Shape of the Shadow oil on linen 76 x 102 cms


Victoria Crowe has quietly emerged into a preeminent position in Scottish painting. Since she stood down from her role as a tutor at Edinburgh College of Art in 1998, she has been able to expand her professional practice so that as well as working in West Linton and Edinburgh she has spent many months in Venice where she and Mike Walton, with a property and a boat, can think of themselves as Venetians! Duncan Macmillan’s introduction explores the idea of reflection in her work which to me is the key: only with immersion, when the relationship between place and artist seems mutual, can secrets be revealed and the artist’s reflections be imbued with insight. She has also expanded her technical range using a great variety of media, including printmaking, to enrich her visual repertoire. The Scottish Gallery has always tried to make a significant contribution to the visual arts at The Edinburgh Festival and we are proud to present Reflection – New Work for 2010. Guy Peploe Managing Director, The Scottish Gallery


We use the word reflection in two, apparently quite different ways. It describes what we see in the mirror or in the surface of still water, but also our thoughts and, in its adjective, reflective, even our mood when our minds are engaged, not with our immediate circumstances, but with something more inward. But these two uses may not be so far apart. Trying to picture a state of mind or a memory, I think most of us will arrive at something very like a visible reflection: a fluid compound of insubstantial, shifting images that blur into each other, just as a breeze might blur and mingle the image of trees reflected in the waters of a loch. With glass, reflections across different planes can become very complex, too. Things intercut each other, or appear displaced. There is also another, less logical dimension to mental reflections, however, one which visible reflections lack. Words and phrases, often with no apparent connection to them, will often also interweave and mingle with our mental pictures. Victoria Crowe paints states of mind in this way, externalising shifting mental images, capturing the fragility, the transience and the elusive poetry of memories and reflections that, even though they are so fleeting and insubstantial, can nevertheless be charged with feeling and can evoke a potent sense of mood. That is why in her paintings things intercut and overlay each other; why an image of Mary Magdalen by Bellini drifts into a picture of the red walls of the Venetian streets with their palimpsest of graffiti and old posters. That is also why texts sometimes appear in her paintings, just as words and phrases appear in our memories. These words may be graffiti, as in her picture, Rialto?, or short passages from her own notebooks as in several other paintings. In Trade Routes and Messages, swatches of material from the Fortuny Museum are annotated in an antique hand, invoking the trade in luxury goods that created the wealth of the Venetian Empire. Venice features frequently in her work as in Walking and Thinking in Venice, for instance. To the left of this picture a memory of a face from a painting by Sebastiano del Piombo gazes out as though an actual reflection in the patchy,

worn and faded silver of an antique mirror in a Venetian Palazzo, a reflection on a reflection. In the same silvered mirror both kinds of reflection elide in Reflection on a Lost Empire. The lost empire is Venice, of course, and she spends time every year in the city. Circumspice – the Studio, Venice, incorporates the actual view from her studio window looking out from the Giudecca across the lagoon. The picture also includes a small self-portrait in which she sees herself in profile and characteristically at an oblique angle achieved by the use of double mirrors; double reflections again and a reminder that her paintings are reflective in both senses. The actual world is reflected in them just as she reflects on it and, too, on the art that she loves that distills its beauty. Thus in several pictures, elegant dogs from a painting by Piero della Francesca turn up to sit as guardians of a fragment of Tuscan landscape. The landscape looks as though it is also from a Quattrocento painting, but it is an actual place, La Suvera, near Siena. In Landscape – Duality the two dogs are matched by two trees which also echo a detail from Piero; two trees, one bare and one in leaf, are a symbol of the Resurrection in his painting of the Risen Christ. The two trees also appear on their own in Holding the Heat of the Day. Such memories of early Italian painting naturally drift into a landscape that is so reminiscent of it. In a similar way, perhaps, a tall lily of the kind that features in paintings of the Annunciation migrates from a beautiful drawing of the flower itself to take its place in several pictures as a kind of mediator between the tangible world and the world of art and of things remembered. The lily itself and other more straightforward drawings like Lying Snow, for instance, or pages from her sketch-book where she notes things that she has seen, remind us, as Hume made clear, that all our ideas are ultimately rooted in experience and so also is her art. Like many artists, too, she keeps a pin-board in her studio that provides a different kind of link to the actual. On it, sketches, reproductions, pieces of foliage, butterflies and moths, a whole miscellany in fact, are gathered together higgledy-piggledy. It is an epitome of the kind of mental store on which her paintings draw and Message Board incorporates a section of it rendered as a painted image. Snowlines has a similar kind of painted collage. Inspired by scenes from the recent hard winter, this lovely picture brings together scrapbook items, notes, her own sketches of winter scenes, some from years before, and a transfer from a stereoscopic photograph of men in bowler hats clearing snow a hundred years ago. The background is the winter view of

trees and the garden fence at her home in West Linton. This locates the picture, but the collaged details extend it in time. Just as memory and imagination can rove at will across the years, it is not pinned down by its location. Her garden also appears in a number of other pictures here. A beautiful twisted hazel is a prominent feature in it and in Garden Room – a View from the Interior this tree is seen against the snow through the multiple reflections in the windows of the conservatory that gives the picture its title. To the left a more distant tree is seen against the light of a winter sky filtered through a slatted blind. The Annunciation lily is there too in its role perhaps of mediator between the real and the imagined. Looking at this picture, I discussed James Cowie with the artist and she revealed her admiration for his work and how she felt she could relate to him more almost than to any other Scottish artist. He too painted mindscapes, pictures that build from the actual to the imaginary by deploying both kinds of reflection, the visible and the mental, and for Cowie the great art of the past, and especially the chaste and lovely art of the Quattrocento, was part of that mental landscape just as it is for Victoria Crowe. In these paintings, even as she reflects on actual places and things, the beautiful surfaces the artist creates always keep a sense of the delicate insubstantiality, the elusiveness of such mental pictures, but also how they are a construct, not an illusion; we see them, not through them. An image in a poem by Cecil Day Lewis captures something of their quality at once fragile and imaginatively potent. His earliest memory, the mood Fingered and frail as maidenhair, Was this – a china cup somewhere In a green, deep wood. It is a fragmentary image, both concrete and elusive as memory can be, but charged with mood. It is important to keep that fingered delicacy in order to keep that sense of mood, to stay in the realm of the imagination and not slip on the one side into the mundane, or on the other into the merely whimsical. The line between those two things may be narrow, but it is poetic territory; as she walks that narrow line, Victoria Crowe is wonderfully surefooted. Duncan Macmillan

2 Circumspice – the Studio, Venice oil on linen 102 x 127 cms

3 Lying Snow oil and mixed media on paper 51 x 71 cms

4 Snowlines oil and mixed media 79 x 119 cms

5 Piero’s Mysterious Dogs pencil and wash 14 x 20 cms

6 A Little Night Music oil on linen 127 x 127 cms

7 Enigma oil on board 27 x 32 cms

8 Continuum oil on panel 71 x 91 cms

9 Holding the Heat of the Day oil on board 61 x 53 cms

10 Landscape and Sentinel, La Suvera mixed media 49 x 32 cms

11 Continuing Reflection mixed media 50 x 86 cms

12 Attributes – Lilies and Acanthus mixed media 57 x 76 cms

13 Drawing Artichokes in Venice mixed media 27 x 35 cms

14 Reflection on a Lost Empire oil on linen 117 x 112 cms

15 Dark Dog and Hillside mixed media on handmade paper 29 x 41 cms

16 Numinous Tree oil on panel 71 x 76 cms

17 Visiting Cat and Two Snowmen oil and mixed media on pumice primed paper 32 x 48 cms

18 Snow Moment oil on paper 37 x 51 cms

19 Isis, Black Madonna mixed media 58 x 77 cms

20 Drawing Lilies oil on linen 117 x 122 cms

21 Rialto? mixed media 23 x 30 cms 22 Doorway and Wall Painting mixed media 23 x 30 cms

23 Venice Streets, Image and Graffiti mixed media 23 x 30 cms 24 Venice Streets, Sottoportego mixed media 23 x 30 cms

25 Dogs in Venice mixed media 27 x 35 cms 26 Garden Room – a View from the Interior oil on linen 102 x 127 cms

27 Hortus Conclusus mixed media 53 x 67 cms

28 Interior with Snowlight oil on board 44 x 35 cms

29 Quince on Black Lacquer oil on canvas 15 x 15 cms

30 Trade Routes and Messages mixed media 67 x 81 cms

31 Message Board oil on board 51 x 61 cms

32 Still Life with Impermanence oil on board 61 x 66 cms

33 Dual – Hydrangea oil on board 27 x 39 cms

34 Circumspice – the Studio oil on linen 71 x 91 cms

35 Winter Fence oil on linen 71 x 91 cms

36 Blue Thaw oil on board 34 x 43 cms

37 Landscape – Duality oil on linen 76 x 91 cms

38 Continued Conversation oil on board 51 x 66 cms

39 Walking and Thinking in Venice mixed media 29 x 79 cms

40 Burnished Land oil on linen 102 x 102 cms

Victoria Crowe OBE, DHC, FRSE, MA(RCA), RSA, RSW

Victoria Crowe studied at Kingston School of Art from 1961-65 and then at the Royal College of Art, London, from 1965-68. At her postgraduate show she was invited by Sir Robin Philipson to teach at Edinburgh College of Art. For 30 years she worked as a part-time lecturer in the School of Drawing and Painting while developing her own artistic practice. She is a member of the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolours (RSW). She has shown widely throughout the UK, with regular solo shows at the Thackeray Gallery, London, and in particular with The Scottish Gallery since 1970. She has undertaken many important portrait commissions and her work can be seen in university and government collections, as well as the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; and the Danish National Portrait Gallery. In 2000 her exhibition A Shepherd’s Life, consisting of work collected from the 1970s and 80s, was one of the National Galleries of Scotland’s Millennium exhibitions. It received great acclaim and went on to tour. The exhibition was subsequently regathered in 2009 for a three month showing at the Fleming Collection, London. A tapestry was commissioned from the Dovecot Studios to celebrate the exhibition. This coincided with a retrospective and current collection of work, Overview, at The Fine Art Society, London. Victoria was awarded an OBE for Services to Art in 2004 and from 2004-07 was a senior visiting scholar at St Catherine’s College, Cambridge. The resulting body of work, Plant Memory, was shown as a solo show at the RSA in 2007 and is currently touring Scotland. In 2009 she received an Honorary Degree from The University of Aberdeen and in 2010 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Her work is in public and private collections worldwide. For full details of her CV and other information on the artist, please go to:

This catalogue is dedicated to the memory of Mary Edmund/Taubman Friend, artist, writer and scholar.

Published by The Scottish Gallery to coincide with their Edinburgh Festival Exhibition – Victoria Crowe, Reflection – New Work 6 August – 4 September 2010 Exhibition can be viewed online at ISBN 978-1-905146-43-7 Designed by Photography by Forth Photography, Michael Walton (portrait of Victoria Crowe), Antonia Reeve (Burnished Land), Kenneth Gray (A Little Night Music, Interior with Snowlight) Printed by J Thomson Colour Printers All rights reserved. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced in any form by print, photocopy or by any other means, without the permission of the copyright holders and of the publishers.

16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ Tel 0131 558 1200 Email Web

Victoria crowe reflection catalogue

Victoria crowe reflection catalogue