JOHN CRASKE: THREADS : NUA Gallery, St George's Street, Norwich 12 May-6 June
JOHN CRASKE: THREADS
Co-curated by Norwich University of the Arts and Aldeburgh Music
The Gallery at NUA is very pleased to be working alongside the writer Julia Blackburn to bring a unique exhibition of John Craske’s beautiful paintings and tapestries to NUA, which will then travel to the Peter Pears Gallery as part of the Visual Arts Programme of the Aldeburgh Festival in 2015.
John Craske was a Norfok fisherman, born in Sheringham 1881 who became very ill at the onset of the First World War. In 1923 he began to paint the sea, boats and coastline and later began working in embroidery, which he could do from his bed. One of his great masterpieces is a tapestry called The Evacuation of Dunkirk, which he made after listening to what was happening on the wireless. Many smaller ships including fishing and life boats formed part of a flotilla which helped carry soldiers to the larger vessels. One patch of sky within the tapestry remained unfinished, when Craske died in 1943.
The exhibition will bring together paintings by Craske from several different lenders across the Eastern Region and in London, as well as showing for the first time in many years the Dunkirk tapestry, kindly lent by Norfolk Museums Service. The display of this work coincides with the 75th anniversary of the evacuation, and will give visitors the opportunity to reflect on this far-reaching event in modern European history as well as Craske’s own experiences of the sea.
This exhibition will coincide with the publication by Jonathan Cape of Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske in 2015, and NUA will host an evening of conversation between the author Blackburn and the art critic and admirer of Craske Ian Collins.
Kindly supported by Howes Percival Solicitors
12 May – 6 June 2015
Gallery open Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 5pm
Review of the exhibition
I went to the opening of this exhibition this evening and was bowled over, like many others, by the sensitive but string work by John Craske, both in paint and in threads. The subject matter was all sea related, graphically drawn and with great knowledge and observation.
The paintings appear to have been made with stitching in mind. The brush strokes are often following the lines that an embroiderer would use to make the stitches represent textures and direction. Scooped out waves in a rhythm, fine. close together stitches in smooth places, long rangy swathes in others create the sense of movement.
The paintings on their own have a naive quality, though still evident of a person who is intimate with the sea and its accessories, with an understanding of the way that boats yaw and roll, how winds affect the wave and the movement of sand on the dunes, the horizons and shores. But the embroideries tell stories - almost in a disarming way, of events and incidents that will endure. The work shown above, the Dunkirk tapestry will sit alongside the Bayeaux tapestry in telling the story of battles.
I was also struck by the difference that undertaking this work made to Craske's life. We often talk about art and well-being and how art can improve people's lives. It is hard to imagine what Craske's life would have been like without this means of expression, turning to sewn media when paint was impractical in bed. A pragmatic choice of medium maybe, but with such fantastic results which would probably not existed if he continued his life as a fisherman. And it is even more powerful that he is a man who was courageous and motivated enough to take up a 'woman's occupation' - although needlework was a skill that many fishermans needed to maintain their nets and baskets
I bought a copy of Julia Blackburn's book, beautifully produced by Jonathan Cape so that I can better understand John Craske's story and his work. I thoroughly recommend this exhibition and the book - both are touching indeed.