Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dennis Creffield, 1931-2018

I was saddened to read that the artist Dennis Creffield had passed away, and that it had been two days before I had picked up on the news.

I will not attempt to write an obituary for Dennis because that has already been done with great respect by others much more academic than I am. However, I would like to recount a story of loose connections that I noticed as I was reading back on his career as an artist.

I grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire in the north of the UK and attended Leeds College of Art (Jacob Kramer College of Art as it was known back then) and I frequented Fine Art degree shows held at the local Leeds Polytechnic (later to become Leeds Beckett University) and also Leeds University.

In 1977-78 I first attended the Pre-BA Foundation Course but after reflecting on my output of work and arriving at a less than satisfactory outlook upon it, I decided to work for two years in order to save up the money to pay myself through the course again. In 1980-81 I repeated the year and this time everything seemed to slot into place. I guess the first time I was looking for something that wasn't there, a secret perhaps that would explain how to become an artist. In 1980 I realised that there was no secret, in fact I needed to look inside myself to discover the way forward.

Dennis had spent a year teaching at Leeds University in 1964-65, just up the road from my alma mater, although by the time I had reached art school Dennis had already left for Brighton on the south coast. His first solo exhibition had been held at Leeds City Art Gallery in 1964, the same gallery where I saw my first art exhibition in 1976: wonderful paintings by Stanley Spencer.

The Guardian obituary also talked about his friendship with the poet Peter Redgrove and how they used to  frequent Schofield's Department Store, which I knew well. Sadly this store has long-since been demolished.

Interestingly, earlier this year I became involved with a collaborative drawing project entitled (tele)consequences initiated by Professor Paul Sermon and Jeremy Radvan of Brighton University. Not long after this project had taken place, I was packing up my books in preparation for a move and came across many volumes of the work of Peter Redgrove, books I had collected years earlier while still living in the UK.

Dennis had been a student of David Bomberg, who's work I also greatly admire and so it should be no surprise that I included examples of work by both artists when I gave a lecture and ran a half-day drawing workshop at Kyoto Saga University of Arts, Japan, back in 2013. If anyone is investigating the drawing process and wish to experience the power and emotional impact of drawing, then you could do no better than to examine the work of these two formidable artists.

More detailed information can be found at the following links:

The Guardian Obituary here.

Creffield talking about his working process here.

'Body and Soul', Dennis Creffield exhibition at the James Hyman Gallery here.

'English Cathedrals: Drawings by Dennis Creffield' here.

'Dennis Creffield: Paintings of Petworth' here.

At the Tate Gallery here.

Biography at the Borough Road Gallery here.

British Art Portfolio here.

At Waterhouse & Dodd, London here.

At the University of Brighton here.

Images from the Tate Gallery, links to original website in the image title.

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