PJ Crook

Born 1945 Cheltenham, England

Other name: Pamela June Crook

Biography

PJ Crook is known for her graphic figurative style and three-dimensional paintings that oscillate between surreal fantasy and the everyday.  She studied at Gloucestershire College of Art and Design (1960–65) before working freelance as a textile designer and maker of wooden pop art objects in London. Crook resumed painting in 1972. Recurrent themes of her narrative works include crowds, family, and games.  Many seem peaceful and dreamlike at first but underlying tensions arise at closer inspection. She usually draws upon a blend of memory and the subconscious to produce paintings characterised by a haunting Surrealist style. Alternatively, current events sometimes provide subject inspiration, or simply the  strangeness of everyday life. Space is often confused in her paintings through the incorporation of corrugated bases or protruding wooden elements. Painted frames are an important part of her work. Narratives from the canvas spill onto the frame and into the viewer’s space, in order to dismantle barriers between the artwork and its surroundings. Accolades held by Crook include an MBE for services to art (2011), Honorary Doctorate of Arts, University of Gloucestershire (2010), and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. 

Artwork Information

Radio Pram (2003) depicts a mother and father taking a baby out for a stroll. Children play in the park in the background, and a large radio sits at the foot of the pram. Auto-biographical elements inform many artworks by PJ Crook. Typically, these are observations mingled with childhood memories and stories told by her parents. About Radio Pram, Crook explains:  ‘My parents were only twenty two and twenty three when I was born and were keen on the music fashionable at the time. Avid listeners to the radio, they often placed it the other side of the large black pram that they took me out in. The signal would vary and often increase in volume when they went round a corner. Some of my earliest memories are of hearing radio plays through the bedroom wall.’

Characteristic of her distinctive style, Radio Pram incorporates sculptural elements. The head of the dog and the front of the pram protrude from the canvas, to give the impression that the family walks outward from the painting. The frame is unusual in both shape and depth. It contributes a theatrical effect reminiscent of a stage-set. The notion of spectatorship is further reinforced by the blue-clothed boy onlooker in the background on the right hand side. Multiple dimensions create both surprise and intrigue: surrealism blended with the everyday.