EXHIBITION REVIEW: ‘Cathedral Of The Pines’ Gregory Crewdson

I first came across Gregory Crewdson’s stunning tableaux as a fine art photography graduate over 10 years ago. To me, at that time, he was the epitome of a photographic master, known for his acute attention to detail and cinematic approach to every scene, painstakingly creating a mise-en-scene that captured a thousand words in a single beautifully-executed frame.

Having only pored over his work in the pages of a book, I was really eager to indulge in his storytelling for real as soon as I heard of his first UK exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery. I wanted to set my eyes on his works in printed form to capture an insight into the true quality of his images and to understand what was different about this exhibition in comparison to his previous series of works.

Upon entry to the gallery, I was struck with the same level of suspense, often created from his scenes. The exhibition covers 3 floors starting from the top floor, the largest exhibition the Photographer’s Gallery has ever held for one artist. I managed to abstain from sneaking a peek at the other floors whilst making my ascent to the top. I wanted to savour every image in turn and immerse myself into Crewdson’s world within America’s small-town suburbia.

The exhibition did not disappoint. Inspired by melodramas and the works of Hitchcock and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Cathedral of the Pines is Crewdson’s first project to have more of a personal tone and autobiographical feel that depicts raw moments hinting at Crewdson’s personal trauma. Having recently undergone a painful divorce, Crewdson was forced to re-locate away from his home in New York to a church in Massachusetts. The circumstances of his personal life lead him to retreat to his home town of Becket, Massachusetts to places he visited with his Father. Thankfully for us, he has created another stunning series that continues to depict a narrative many of us have had to encounter within our own lives. A narrative that searches for a home or a connection that covers our fears, desires or life’s cornerstones.

A fantastic display of hyperreal moments that accurately depicts the reality of often felt, lost or forgotten moments between life’s drama and events leaves us in a transcendental pause of tension, suspense, worry, loss, grievance or simply loneliness.

Crewdson uses his well-known leitmotifs of carefully-placed lamps, blankets, books, open doors, cupboards and windows as well as his recognisable, although more subtle, colour palette to display a series of frames that looks in on moments of separation that seek a form of connection. With no beginning and no end, we are held in search of meaning within scenes that offer an eerie, charged silence that raise more questions than answers.

Each floor is as coherent and consistent as the one before. The layout and space between pieces allows for each tableau to sink in before viewing the next via a period of reflection.

It is actually very hard to pick out one image over another, but like any exceptional story teller, I was pleasantly surprised by learning what the Cathedral in the Pines responds to. A young man cross country skiing suddenly raises a feeling of nostalgia, as Crewdson literally crosses the path of his youth, traversing through the pines in search for an answer to life. What better response than the one depicted here. A glint of hope and humour that raises the corners of your mouth and a glimpse at Crewdson’s still eerie and melodramatic sense of the world.

By Georgina Angless, Art Consultant, ARTIQ

Exhibition details:
‘Cathedral Of The Pines’ Gregory Crewdson
Photographer’s Gallery
23rd June – 8th October
https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/gregory-crewdson-beyond-the-pines