• Thu. May 30th, 2024

Exhibition Review: ‘Another Place, Another Time’ by Victoria Crowe and Christine de Luca

ByLulu Swanborough

May 19, 2021
night snowy landscape with reflection of a bust portrait of a woman

Stepping into The Scottish Gallery last week was my first physical interaction with art in over a year and it is safe to say that Victoria Crowe’s exhibition did not disappoint. Another Place, Another Time consists of twelve paintings by Crowe, which in turn inspired twelve poems by Christine De Luca. The merging of work between the artist and the poet has created a wonderful, intertwined relationship between image and text. Crowe depicts a variety of sunsets, snowscapes and nightscapes – all painted from the point of view of her home. Along with these paintings, there are several sketches on display which highlight Crowe’s transition from paper to canvas – this is an aspect of the exhibition which should not be overlooked. 

The twelve paintings signify Crowe’s return to her studio in West Linton after she suffered a battle with a serious illness and was confined to her home – which she grew to know in great detail. She was unable to work in 2019 due to her health and then the Covid-19 pandemic started to unfold which led to another break from reality. As I wandered from painting to painting, it felt like I was stepping into the artist’s shoes almost as if glancing through the windows of her house. The experience of the exhibition unites the viewer and Crowe as we are reminded of the universal feelings of quarantine, restriction and loneliness that were overbearing last year during the height of the pandemic. 

Victoria Crowe, Light and Reflection from Within

Personally, I preferred to look at the paintings and then read the poems in order to keep my first impressions as open as possible. However, I did appreciate that De Luca’s poetry enriched the artistic experience. Her words echoed my feelings as stood in front of some of the paintings, such as Light and Reflection from Within. The viewer looks out onto the snow-covered garden where the light and dark meet or as De Luca poetically writes: “kaleidoscopes on white, it’s strafing beams encountering the dark”. Crowe was keen to collaborate with De Luca as she had the ability to “encapsulate in words a feeling that [she] was kind of groping for in paint”. The pairing with poetry intensifies the experience and guides the viewer through the canvas by offering stories that are intertwined with each painting. During a talk on Zoom titled ‘Meet the Artist: Victoria Crowe’ she stated that Light and Reflection from Within was one of her most personal pieces. At first, Crowe was hesitant to include her portrait in the painting but ultimately she acknowledged that her presence is “a symbol of how I think of myself as the artist”. She is pictured looking out of her conservatory and her portrait floats mysteriously in the top left corner of the canvas. This addition provides a different dimension to the exhibition by including an element of human interaction between Crowe and the viewer. The canvases become ‘windows’, and it is as if she is looking out of them with you.

Victoria Crowe, The Amazing Clarity of the Night Skies

I was particularly drawn to The Amazing Clarity of the Night Skies due to the vibrant use of colour. De Luca’s poem opens with “a night-soaked sky slips into lapis lazuli” which in my opinion summarised the painting beautifully. Crowe saw a decrease in pollution due to Covid-19 which resulted in clearer night skies, sunsets and sunrises. The lack of noise in her village and the clear skies created stunning, crisp views over her garden as demonstrated through this painting. Moreover, De Luca mentions the “waxing crescent moon” and the “pin-prick Venus” whose presence is so small that without reading the poem one may not see them; despite their size they should be appreciated as they contribute to the bigger picture. I believe a deeper understanding of the artist’s objectives is communicated through the poem. 

Victoria Crowe- Conflagration

It is the case for Conflagration: the smallest of the twelve paintings which seems to capture a tree set ablaze through a camera lenses or smaller window. The winding, curving branches of the tree resemble coral and the fiery colours act as a contrast to the blues, greys and greens used in her other paintings. The content refers directly to the title as ‘conflagration’ means a large, greatly destructive fire – perhaps a metaphor for the current medical crisis we are living in. However, De Luca’s poem injects positivity into this alarming, blazing painting as she describes it as “a healing tree for a wounded world”, which I perceived as a sign of hope amid the current reality we are living in. 

Overall, Crowe’s exhibition is the perfect way to be immersed back into the art world after being starved of it for so long. Although it only consists of twelve paintings, each of them is filled with immense detail and saturated colours that requires the viewer to stand and contemplate each painting at length; perhaps creating a nostalgic feeling for last year. Sir John Leighton, Director of the National Galleries of Scotland stated that the paintings and poems “resonate powerfully with our memories of isolation and confinement during lockdown”. Crowe’s creative response was born out of illness and isolation; however, she has successfully transformed a bleak moment in her life into something positively beautiful. 

Image Victoria Crowe, Light and Reflection from Within
Image Courtesy of The Scottish Gallery