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Colin Crumplin at Anthony Stokes Ltd.  









Artscribe No 8
Reviewed by Peter Rippon
June 1977


One of the problems of running a gallery is who to select and why, particularly, as is the case of Anthony Stokes’ new gallery in Langley Court WC2, the space, however sympathetic, is restricted. Colin Crumplin is the perfect choice as the work is of such a nature and size as to positively benefit from the space and atmosphere; would that more galleries might take note! This new gallery has a ground floor and a basement which allow more than twenty five of Crumpling’s paintings and drawings have adequate viewing room. The show has a dialectic essay-like feel, as though one is being gently instructed in how the artist thinks about the act of making paintings, and what he chooses to show as a result of that thinking.

The work concerns a dialogue  between the creation of visually spontaneous marks, spatters, dribbles and the examination by imitation of those marks.The end result is both a visual and intellectual juxtaposition.This work has precedents in Johns and even Lichtenstein: but its originality lies in the way the paintings are made by spreading, folding and blotting the paint, and then tracing those methods carefully and recreating them as a slightly modified copy in a variety of styles from Impressionism to Pointillism. Works such as ‘Fold and Spread’ illustrate this well by emphasising how the paint has a delicious quality when its overall look is carefully copied.

The seductive aspect of Crumplin’s work is the actual paint handling, which, in itself, might amply suffice for other painters. He has a deliberate and sensual way of using the substance which sometimes distracts from the point of making the pun. In fact when he makes good paintings per se they are often spoiled by that side of the work. ‘Black to White’ is a case in point. It is intelligently and sympathetically  made using monochrome, as the title implies, and looks literally delicious. But, appended at the top edge, is a smaller rather awkwardly connected  connected pastiche version that frankly detracts from what might  otherwise be a stunning painting. By using this visual duality one has to constantly to readjust  the criteria with which to look at the work. On the one hand it is serious colour painting , and on the other hand it is some kind of art historical commentary: consequently there is always there is always an unsettling but definitely intriguing conflict. This is , however, their ultimately strength; the two elements are necessary.

While Crumplin has been making these paintings, since the beginning of 1972, he has produced a series of  drawings which are published in book called ‘Homage a Queneau’  ( Anthony Stokes Ltd). It contains a set of one hundred pencil drawings of cups, all carried out in  various pastiche, parodying styles, ranging from Picasso through Scott to Dine. These are witty and slightly posed statements about the meaning and relevance of mannerisms and styles. The most amusing aspect is that he obviously got involved in the  in this intellectual fraud because he enjoyed the freedom of deciding  means and subjects in advance, rather than because of an intended comment on the artists he chose to parody. The idea of such a book was inspire by Raymond Queneau’s ‘ Exercises in Style’ ( published in 1947) in which Queneau told he same anecdote in a variety of ways. Somehow one feels that the notion a book is preferable to trying to do a similar thing in painting.