For PJ Crook, the world–whether natural, spiritual, mythical, political or imagined–is her stage. On the canvas she brings alive its players and presents meticulously detailed snapshots of our age: the preoccupations, pursuits, hopes and dreams of everyday life. In doing so, she often prompts us to ask questions about how we see our own place and purpose in the world.
It is apposite, given the challenging times in which we live–the emergency of climate change, ocean acidification, shrinking ice, retreating glaciers and the extirpative and global extinction of Earth’s creatures–that this exhibition is named Preserving the Species. There is no more significant task staring us in the face than an expeditious effort to save planet Earth. Unlike the mass extinction events of geological history, it is our species that is entirely responsible for the current, sixth, mass extinction of fauna and flora. In this sense, this exhibition creates a profound resonance and highlights our fragile relationship with the planet.
In the angel and animals group of works, angels accompany and perhaps protect creatures on their trek through habitats. Is it that the animals no longer trust human kind? Or have the angels intervened in the light of humankind’s absent guardianship of the preservation of species? The narrative of these paintings inspires us to mould ourselves into guardians of those with whom we share Earth. PJ’s paintings encourage us to ‘step up to the mark’ and fill a lacuna that is a reconnection with nature and the reframing of our attitudes to it.
The large painting ‘Coming to the Table’ and the small oval painting ‘Putting Back’ engage us in a contemplation of our relationship to Earth. In ‘Putting Back’ we are asked to consider our duty to return to the natural world the riches it has so generously bestowed upon us. In ‘Coming to the Table’ the animals are also present at the partying scene–a timely reminder that we share a space with them–not they with us! The conservationist Grey Owl said, ‘you belong to nature, not it to you!’. Another theme related to species–in particular, of helping to save our own–is that of journey and the migrants’ voyage to seek a safe haven.
This is explored in both Survivor and Nautilus. In Nautilus the discarded shells remind us they were once homes, whilst the approaching migrants are in search of a new ones. The figures are tiny in comparison with the nautilus signifying that nature is bigger than all of us–but it is also both nature and our fellow mortals that require our solicitude.
It is not only a celebration of the natural world that permeates PJ Crook’s work. Her work effuses a celebration of what it means to be human. A group of such paintings includes ‘Le Weekend’, ‘Open Mic’, ‘Replication with Studio Friends Lettuce and Hopper’ and ‘Evolution to Revolution’; these are ‘familiar friends’ which carry the signature of her early work–an exuberance of characters and situations executed with technical artistry. Alongside the potency of the images is the esprit of the inner child–a cherished attribute very much visible in
PJ’s work; there is bustling activity, humour, drama, and a vibrant palette. It is here where the themes of social inter action, community, mystery, illusion and imagination are enacted to the full as if the paintings broad cast the sheer thrill of what it means to be alive.
This is aliveness also shines in ‘Mother and Child’ and ‘Annunciation’ –works which express the creation and nurturing of new life. Perhaps this is a vision of a better future with hearts and minds that nurture rather than decimate the creatures with which we share a home. Like the love connection in Mother and Child, it is only through falling in love with Earth that we will truly be emotionally connected enough to Gaia to protect her and focus our attention on preserving the species.
‘Why don’t we remember those with whom we share Earth? And why don’t we honour and value their true worth? We wouldn’t want those best friends to simply vanish without trace, so let’s work together and restore their rightful place.’
- Martin Kiszko August, 2019
Dr. Martin Kiszko is the ‘UK’s Green Poet’, a composer, and academic. He tours the world with his one-man show and book Green Poems for a Blue Planet–an environ mental campaign for ‘Saving the Planet through the Power of Poetry’.
12 September - 27 September 2019
Panter & Hall
11-12 Pall Mall
Monday to Friday
10.00 AM - 6.00 PM
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
CLOSED BANK HOLIDAYS