'No Such Thing', Graham Crowley, 1993. Image courtesy of the artist. We are really pleased that ‘No Such Thing’ by Graham Crowley has returned to the Walker Art Gallery for the REALITY exhibition - it was first displayed here as part of the John Moores Painting Prize in 1993. Graham has continued to have a close relationship with the Walker, eventually becoming a juror for the John Moores in 2008. Here, Graham gives us an insight into the inspiration behind his painting: "In 1991 I was living and working in Middlesborough, I was involved in The Riverscape Drawing Project based on and around the River Tees. This was a residency sponsored by Northern East Arts, Cleveland County Council and local industry - steel and nuclear. Most days I would drive past Dormanstown; a massive run-down housing estate built by the steel company Dorman Long in 1946. This was effectively the industrial equivalent of the tied cottage - on a massive scale. This is probably why the rather proprietorial sounding name. The steel works which dominates the landscape was nationalised in 1967. Dorman Long's Redcar steelworks subsequently became a part of British Steel. As I drove past Dormanstown on the elevated and aptly named Trunk Road, the North Sea appeared 'above' the estate and fused with the sky. Merchant shipping seemed to be floating about above the houses.
I was unaware at the time that this was one of the estates that would lead to the name of Cleveland being for ever associated with child abuse. Four years earlier in 1987 over 120 children were taken into care by Cleveland County Council; all were thought to be victims of 'organised' child abuse. 'No Such Thing' is an attempt to reflect the sense of alienation and abandonment that working class people were experiencing under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government. In 1987 during an interview with the weekly magazine 'Woman's Own' the prime minister went on record as saying, "There's no such thing as society". Trade unions were demonised and heavy industry was in decline. Coal mines and steel works were being closed. Entire communities were torn apart. There were riots. Monetarism and globalisation were beginning to bite. Britain was embroiled in a civil war with Irish Republicans. There was conflict - almost everywhere." The jury for the John Moores in 2008. From left: Jake and Dinos Chapman, Paul Morrison, Graham Crowley and Sacha Craddock.
The bright morning light from the North Sea infused everything with luminosity. At the same time I experienced a profound sense of disquiet.