Our venues

Also in this section…?

Transcript of podcast by Graham Crowley on 'Bruegel Camp' by Neal Jones.

Introduction: Juror Graham Crowley has won many art prizes, with paintings in both public and private collections. Here he talks about Neal Jones' prizewinning painting, 'Bruegel Camp'.

Graham Crowley: The more you look at it you realise how considered this painting is, in terms of the way it references Bruegel, which is very, very slight. Because, had it not been entitled 'The Bruegel Camp' or 'Bruegel Camp' more correctly, I think I would have actually, because I'm a bit of an [laughs] anorak basically, would have actually thought about Bruegel whilst looking at this picture. And I'm not sure that that was the title that perhaps was intended until the artist stood back and looked at the painting.

It's obviously very contemporary. There are caravans, there are igloo dome tents and ridge tents and yes it is ostensibly a camp, [laughs] it's a camp in one of the most hostile environments conceivable. These bald, severe, grey mountains, what looks like a battle ship on the horizon and a sky that is literally leaden in colour with this awfully ominous and robust - what I take to be a brown - cloud.

But there's so many moments that I personally delight in. In the bottom right hand corner is a little character crawling into a tent who is naked from the waist down, or probably completely naked. And that references, not so much Bruegel to my mind but Bosch and the exotic paintings of that period. There are other moments of quite parochial carryings on; people just sitting about looking at the view, [laughs] hands on hips. There's a little drama going on here, some altercation in one of the tents and what looks like a small dog is just going into one of the tents.

But one of the moments that I particularly enjoy just compositionally as a painter is [laughs] the disarming way that the caravan in the foreground sits right on the edge of the painting. It has a little black prop as if it were a leg or a ladder supporting it because the caravan is slightly soft in its form. The colour of the thing is, as I say , kind of leaden, the whole landscape is bleached of colour.

The other thing to mention about this painting is it's actually a relatively small painting it's about sort of, I don't know, seventeen or eighteen inches by twelve inches. It's quite an extraordinary little painting. And coupled with the fact that in the back of my mind the more I looked at it, the more I thought about Bruegel and the relationship with Bruegel, which is one of the same kind of tendentious, tenuous if you like. At the same it's explicit in some respects, there is a playfulness about this picture and a drama that gives it a dignity. I think that at first, I think I chuckled when I first saw it. But I thought how enjoyable, the robustness of the painting on the caravan in the foreground with a slash for a door and these two [laughs] rather chunky and clunky brush strokes that are perfectly adequate to describe the windows in this caravan.