I’ve had a few disappointing trips to the Photographers’ Gallery in recent years, but Gregory Crewdson’s ‘Cathedral of the Pines’ exhibition completely blew me away. It’s a wonderful collection of work.
It’s the first time The Photographers’ Gallery has devoted all three of its gallery spaces to one artist, with Crewdson’s large, cinematic canvasses producing a compelling vista on every floor.
Described as a ‘Master of atmosphere’ by The Guardian, the artist works with a large crew and complex lighting set-ups to produce remarkable, filmic images that draw you in.
The Gallery website has more detail:
This is the first UK exhibition of Cathedral of the Pines, a new body of work by acclaimed American artist Gregory Crewdson, and it is also the first time The Photographers’ Gallery has devoted all three of its gallery spaces to one artist.
With this series, produced between 2013 and 2014, Crewdson departs from his interest in uncanny suburban subjects and explores human relations within more natural environments. In images that recall nineteenth-century American and European paintings, Crewdson photographs figures posing within the small rural town of Becket, Massachusetts, and its vast surrounding forests, including the actual trail from which the series takes its title. Interior scenes charged with ambiguous narratives probe tensions between human connection and separation, intimacy and isolation.
Crewdson describes this project as ‘his most personal’, venturing to retrieve in the remote setting of the forest, a reminiscence of his childhood. The images in Cathedral of the Pines, located in the dystopian landscape of the anxious American imagination, create atmospheric scenes, many featuring local residents, and for the first time in Crewdson’s work, friends and family. In Woman at Sink, a woman pauses from her domestic chores, lost in thought. In Pickup Truck, Crewdson shows a nude couple in the flatbed of a truck in a dense forest—the woman seated, the man turned away in repose. Crewdson situates his disconsolate subjects in familiar settings, yet their cryptic actions—standing still in the snow, or nude on a riverbank—hint at invisible challenges. Precisely what these challenges are, and what fate awaits these anonymous figures, are left to the viewer’s imagination.
Crewdson’s careful crafting of visual suspense conjures forebears such as Diane Arbus, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edward Hopper, as well as the influence of Hollywood cinema and directors such as David Lynch. In Cathedral of the Pines, Crewdson’s persistent psychological leitmotifs evolve into intimate figurative dramas.
Visually alluring and often deeply disquieting, these tableaux are the result of an intricate production process: For more than twenty years, Crewdson has used the streets and interiors of small-town America as settings for photographic incarnations of the uncanny. Working with a large crew, he plans his images as meticulously as any movie director.
You really have to see the full size work to appreciate the depth and brilliance of the work.
Each scene poses unanswered questions.
Other work in the gallery
Downstairs, photographers were encouraged to create their own food photos, selecting from a range of plastic props.
Here’s my effort. It’s not every good.
With no less than five floors to scramble up, the lift being broken was a bugger for anyone with a dodgy peg.
Mind you, I like the numbers of each floor. It reminds me of the Thunderbirds.
In the print room in the basement there was some interesting subverted Victorian portraits.
I loved this old print. If I had a couple of thousand of pounds lying spare, I would have bought it!
There’s a large range of photographic books, magazines, cameras and even good ol’ film available.
Cue mist! Gregory Crewdson, the photographer with a cast, a crew and a movie-sized budget [Guardian]
Gregory Crewdson. Brief Encounters, a film by Ben Shapiro
Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines [BJP]
Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday 10.00 – 20.00 during exhibitions
Sunday 11.00 – 18.00
(*please check before setting out)