John Crossley | Wish You Were Here, Portraits of a Journey

Eames Fine Art, 2020

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Introductory Essay


We are delighted to welcome John Crossley back to the Print Room as he revisits a body of work that has sustained a remarkable period of creativity over the past three years. Followers of John’s work will recognise here another sequence of works in postcard-sized miniature that he first introduced after a residency in Elba in the summer of 2017. These small, gem-like creations have been a recurring motif in John’s work ever since and have featured prominently in studio showcases and John’s solo show Borrowed Light in February 2019. John has pursued this idea with customary zeal and pushed it into fresh territory. We are excited to showcase the fruits of his work this summer as more than thirty brand new works jostle for your attention on our walls.


It is abundantly clear that this way of working still provides John with a vital creative spark. Wish You Were Here … hums with energy and I suggest that this is because this format allows John to quickly establishes a fluent dialogue with his own work. All of John’s best works are conducted in the form of a conversation. He takes a fragment of an idea whether it be a small sketch of a plant, a photograph from a window or a glimpse of a shady corner of a garden and then allowing it to evolve into a semi-abstract rhythm of colour, shape and pattern. This involves a huge amount of ‘back and forth’ between John and the work and it is crucial to understand that for this process to be a success, John cannot have a preconceived idea of what the finished work will look like when he starts. The process of making is the point of the work and all these pieces must be understood in terms of a journey, an exploration, a discovery.


Of course, the idea of travel has taken on a different significance for us all of late. The prospect of an escape to exotic climes has been removed for the time being at least, so on one level, John’s works with their connotations of the Mediterranean of Bonnard and Matisse or the sultry Indian miniatures of Golu can transport us momentarily. They are also a reminder of John’s last show in the gallery and provide a comforting nostalgia for a pre-Covid time that, although in the relatively recent past, feels like a world away now. Wish You Were Here, indeed.


The interior journey of the mind has taken on a new importance in these extraordinary months. John’s decision to simply title each of these works with the day of its creation underpins the tension between the mundanity of daily routine and the vivid possibilities of an imagination that has had to turn in on itself. This is the extraordinary contradiction of confinement and will be familiar to anyone who has had to grapple with the past few months. In giving visual expression to this contradiction, John has created a vivid journal of these times.


But above all, Wish You Were Here … should give us cause for optimism. As we have seen, the idea for these works germinated long before the world was turned upside down and John has cherished and nurtured it tenderly through these past months and has produced something even more vibrant, more vital, more eloquent than before. It is a creative idea that has not just endured, it has flourished. This is not just evidence of an artistic imagination in robust, rude health but is a testament to the durability of good ideas, of creativity and of art itself. There is hope here and a reminder that this time will pass; there will be better days. These works are beautiful, joyous, celebratory tokens of a future we will share again. Choose your favourite and send it to someone you love.   


Vincent Eames, August 2020