Creffield could be described as one of the last remaining survivors of a century of fine British painters. At the age of merely 16, in 1948, he joined the Borough Polytechnic group under the tuition of David Bomberg. Indeed, it was there, within this energetic and youthful group and under the watchful eye of one of Britain’s masters, that Creffield managed to assimilate a style that is still largely prominent in much of his present work.
In this recent exhibition a central theme of Jerusalem has been used. This idea came about largely due to the proposal of the the gallery owner, who intended to ‘address the actual city held holy by multiple faiths as well as the London of William Blake’s Jerusalem’. The body of work on show, therefore, is a mixture of works that incorporates charcoal drawings from Creffield’s first visit to the Holy City in 1993, more recent works of the same subject, several sketches of St.Paul’s Cathedral and lastly, a large number of portraits made from a bust of William Blake from the National Portrait Gallery. James Hyman writes, ‘In bringing together these bodies of works it became apparent that what unites many of these pictures is the form of the dome, from the Dome of the Rock to Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s and on to Blake’s domed forehead’. Without further analysis of Blake’s forehead, it is perhaps the multiple sketches and paintings of his rounded head that appear to have taken Creffield’s work past the era of Bomberg; exploring a great array of styles but still making sure the work remains his own.
For all those, however, that might be more inclined towards the work produced under Bomberg in his early days, there is still great evidence of the structure and movement that made the Borough Polytechnic group so special. Several paintings and charcoal drawings of Jerusalem stand out above the rest to possess the highly energetic but controlled touch that was so characteristic of the group, each one a delight in both depth and technique.
The linear progression of Creffield, remaining faithful to the past but never ceasing to move forward, is something to be admired. In this exhibition he has managed to do just that; combining works that not only show his acquired skills as a teenager but also demonstrate where he has been able to take his abundant talent. – Max Costley