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John Craxton: Drawn To Light
5 April - 23 July 2023

John Craxton: Drawn to Light

Meşher, Istanbul’s leading multidisciplinary art space, is to celebrate the life and work of the painter and designer John Craxton (1922–2009). The late British artist’s first solo exhibition in Türkiye will run April 5–July 23, 2023.Meşher will have the honour of exhibiting the biggest and the most comprehensive display of Craxton’s artworks ever to be showcased. John Craxton: Drawn to Light, curated by Ian Collins, friend and the biographer of the artist, brings together a diverse selection of works spanning the artist’s long career.Featuring nearly 200 works, the exhibition offers a wide-ranging presentation of Craxton’s artworks including a monumental tapestry, paintings, drawings, prints, book designs and personal effects. The exhibition charts a joyful creative life moving from war-time darkness into light and from monochrome to brilliant colour. The window display features an example of the vintage motorbikes the artist loved to ride.In addition to loaned works, Meşher’s John Craxton: Drawn to Light exhibition features 44 artworks from the Ömer Koç Collection, whose holding of Craxton works is second only to the John Craxton Estate.

Photographs by the American photographer Robert McCabe and the London-born painter Nicholas Moore also enrich the John Craxton: Drawn to Light exhibition. First travelling to Aegean in 1954, McCabe's photography focuses on its landscape and people, providing a close parallel with the art of John Craxton. Nicholas Moore's photographs show scenes from his 1985 trip to Istanbul with John Craxton. A frequent visitor and an admirer of Istanbul, Craxton’s revelatory exhibition invites art lovers to explore his art and life in the lands he loved best.

Influences

Craxton’s early influences include Picasso and Miró, and at the age of 14 he had studied An Allegory (Fábula) by El Greco, forever his favourite artist. Rooted in travels to Greece and Türkiye, Craxton’s affection for Aegean culture and landscape shaped his adult work. His powerful compositions in linear colour reflect a subtle and highly personal symbolism as well as a sensual life in the sun. Mythology and archaeology, particularly Byzantine mosaics, Turkish carpets and Ottoman architecture were key influences in Craxton’s work. For nearly 50 years, Craxton created many of his best works in an Ottoman studio on his adopted island of Crete, Chania. He was a prolific portraitist of cats and goats. Although having famous friends, he depicted ordinary people including sailors, shepherd families, and his companions in taverns and cafes.

The Arcadian

John Craxton’s insistence on complete creative freedom took him beyond national or political identity. His art, encompassing the broadest and deepest humanitarianism, speaks to everyone. Following visits to Istanbul over several decades the mosaics in Hagia Sophia and warm encounters with local people were reflected in the spirit of his pictures. Travelling along the Aegean coast of Türkiye from Troy to Ephesus, his passions ranged from ancient sites to traditional cuisine. “Arcadia” was a word Craxton used habitually to describe this Aegean paradise, and he saw himself as a proud “Arcadian.” He painted pleasure and lived it too.

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John Craxton, Landscape, 1963–1967
oil on canvas, John Craxton Estate

John Craxton, Two Figures and Setting Sun, 1952–1967
oil on canvas, John Craxton Estate

John Craxton, Self-portrait, 1946–1947
oil on paper, Ömer Koç Collection

John Craxton, Landscape with the Elements, 1975–1976
tapestry, University of Stirling Art Collection, Scotland

Publication
Publication Publication
John Craxton Drawn to Light
More information
Online Exhibiton
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