Victoria Crowe is one of Scotland's most significant living artists. Her ability to skilfully weave together landscape, portraiture, still life, and interiors make her artwork both highly desirable and instantly recognisable. She has achieved international status and recognition due to many high-profile exhibitions and notable commissions, including portraits of poet Kathleen Raine, composer Thea Musgrave, Professor Peter Higgs, a double portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, and HRH Prince Charles.
Crowe began her artistic career at the age of 16 when she attended Kingston School of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art, London. Robin Philipson, who was then head of the Edinburgh College of Art, saw her degree show in 1968 and immediately offered her a teaching post in Edinburgh, where she subsequently taught drawing and painting for thirty years. She also took over the botanical drawing class upon Elizabeth Blackadder's retirement.
Crowe has noted that she uses plant imagery as 'ciphers and symbols within a greater whole,' which means that her flower paintings operate simultaneously as abstract objects, as depictions of our known environment and as a symbolic language. Her works often begin as observations of the natural, visible world, before becoming layered with symbols and meditations on time, memory, and imagination.
Enclosed Garden was exhibited as part of the RSA Annual Exhibition in 2006 and already hints at Crowe's curiosity about our relationship with plants and the settings in which we enjoy them, as well as the timelessness and endurance of nature.
The calming, cool blue of the painting shows Crowe's sensitive control of colour and transports the image to an imaginary time and place. The painting is divided between the warmer interior tones on the left and the cold, harsh light of winter's day on the right. Behind the textured surface, we are offered a shaded glimpse at concealed images and decorative details, once again highlighting the painting's variations in depth, both real and illusory.
As one of her more layered compositions, Crowe explores the fluidity and the boundaries of physical space, while also capturing the simplicity of symbolic details. On the right side of the painting, wild swirling twigs in a blue vase echo the barren branches of the trees directly behind it. It is as if the man-made vase is attempting to control the natural world it holds within, but chaos erupts like a trumpet blaring. The vegetation almost melds together, challenging the viewer's perception of space and twisting the realms of interior and exterior, reality and illusion.
Enclosed Garden can be seen as a gateway painting to her 2007 exhibition Plant Memory. The exhibition was the product of a conversation between Crowe and Professor David Ingram of St Catharine's College, Cambridge (and formerly Regius Professor of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh) whilst she painted his portrait. The collaborative research project, which saw artist and scientist working together, centred around the use of living and preserved specimens in Botanic Gardens, Museums, Herbaria and Libraries in Cambridge, Edinburgh and Venice.
Today, Crowe is represented in a large number of private and public collections. She has recently exhibited extensively, with simultaneous shows at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish Gallery (Edinburgh International Festival) in 2018, followed by a major lifetime retrospective at the City Art Centre in Summer 2019. She divides her time working and living in Venice and the Scottish Borders.
Dates for Your Diary
AUCTION | Contemporary & Post-War Art | Thursday 15 Aug 2019 11:00am
VIEWING | Sunday 11 August 12pm-4pm | Monday 12th - Wednesday 14 August 10am-5pm
LOCATION | 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh