No. 1
&  essay 

No. 3

No. 9

Curator Aquarum

& tribute



Dennis Creffield

Dennis and Mr Blake.  Photograph taken by Steve Creffield in 2015.

Dennis Creffield (29 January 1931 – 26 June 2018) was a British
artist with work owned by major British and worldwide art 
collections, including the Tate Gallery, The British Museum, Arts 
Council of England, the Government Art Collection, The Los Angeles
County Museum of Art, Leeds City Art Gallery, Williams College 
Museum of Art and many others.

Read the Wikipedia article here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Creffield

Peter Ackroyd on Dennis Creffield


“To them Howards End was a house;” E. M. Forster wrote, “they
could not know that to her it had been a spirit, for which she sought a
spiritual heir.” Of course those spirits are around us still, and the 
testimony both of English art and English literature confirms that the 
house, the church, even the smallest dwelling place, represents the 
eternal transaction between man and earth. Dennis Creffield is part of 
that tradition and all of his work affirms what used to be called genius 
loci, but which can be less mythologically rendered as the spirit of place.
His wonderful drawings of the English cathedrals, for example, 
displayed his veneration for those great bodies of stone – “body” being
the appropriate word here since, as he himself explained, he was intent
upon “the reconciling of geometry with the organic”. These vast fabrics
of stone live again in his charcoal drawings, and in so doing emphasize
an important truth – that to have a sense of place is also to have a sense
of history. The artist stands before the great churches and, in that 
moment when he reveals their instantaneous shape upon paper, he 
becomes part of a larger process; to paraphrase the German mystic, 
Jacob Boehme, he disclose time in eternity, as well as eternity in time. 

     Dennis Creffield is in that sense part of a continuing inheritance, 
and it is intriguing to learn that he sketched inside Westminster Abbey
when he was a young man. This was also the site of William Blake’s
apprenticeship, and we can see in Creffield’s work the same instinct
towards a religious, almost a medieval, vision. But he is also attached
to a more accessible English tradition; there are artists like Cotman,
Girtin, Cozens and Constable, who have been drawn to the qualities
of stone, to the textures of houses, to the surfaces of cathedrals, to the
harmonies of a building in a landscape. Creffield can also be seen as
part of the antiquarian tradition in England, which itself leads back to
the great Gothic builders of our race and eventually, perhaps, to the
masons of Stonehenge who made stone their god and therefore saw
God in the stone. 

     But this is to stretch history into legend, when there are far more
important resemblances closer to hand. Dennis Creffield’s paintings 
of Petworth and its park may be seen on one level as a “homage” to
Turner, but only in the spirit that animates all of Ceffield’s work – that
the artist’s vision is a collaboration between past and present, between
the living and the dead painter. The great floods of colour and the
bright tonality continue Turner’s own fantastic ceremonies of light, but
in Creffield’s painting there is always the sense of the house and its land
as organic, breathing forms. In his recent drawings of Brimham Rocks
he demonstrates his affinity with the very texture of the earth, and in
these paintings of Petworth he reveals the same concern for form and
for fabric – the form of the house, the form of the land, the form of that
moment when house and land meet to become an expression of the
same spirit. That is why his paintings of Petworth Park are filled with
a sense of the English landscape – their rhythms, their gentle curves,
their luminosity, express an almost religious fervour. They are, in the
proper sense, a revelation. 

     Yet this need not be a solemn or portentous undertaking, and in
Creffield’s paintings there is a great vivacity combined with 
exuberance; he becomes one with the fabric of the house or the land,
and so can reveal its permanence in that moment of celebration when
he puts paint upon the canvas. Note, in particular, how he manages to
convey that light which seems to surround the old house; it is as if time
were accustomed to it, and rested a little. So we return to Howards
End and the house as “spirit”. Dennis Creffield has himself quoted
Wittgenstein’s aphorism that architecture “expresses a thought”. It is
the triumph of these paintings that, here, the spirit and the thought are
so beautifully aligned. 

Peter Ackroyd, London, 1993
From the catalogue 
Gillian Jason Gallery, London.1993




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