The Crewdson academy

Gregory Crewdson, Untitled 2004, from Beneath the Roses

The Crewdson show at the CCP is an impressive spectacle, rooms full of very large photographs made with complex and expensive Hollywood expertise. The images are beautifully lit and staged with a theatrical precision normally beyond the resources of the photographic still. A camera usually just captures some pre-existing scene as in a snapshot, but Crewdson’s control over light, colour and composition brings his pictures closer to the realm, not just of cinema, but of painting.

In a painting marks go exactly where the artists wants them, and the totality should be a material expression of the artist’s conception. One style of art where this technical control reached a high point of skill was in the Academy art of the 19th century.

Crewdson is an academy artist for the present day. The similarity is striking. They are large narrative pictures, exquisitely fine in execution, created slowly and with large resources. They are expensive, beautiful objects and reference a known and established background of story-themes and visual traditions, in his case cinema.

William Orchardson, The First Cloud 1887

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