Profoundly affected by post-war existential philosophy, Crozier consciously allied himself and his work with contemporary European art throughout the 1950s and 1960s, towards painters such as Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Soulages, Hans Hartung and Nicolas de Staël. His visits to Paris in 1947, 1950, and 1953 were formative experiences: “Anyone who was not young in 1949 and who did not sit in the Café de Flore or the Deux Magots, where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were as gods, simply cannot appreciate the sheer excitement that enveloped the young of Europe emotionally, physically and intellectually.”
The landscape became the source of visceral paintings: instinctive, animated brush strokes convey the primitive energy Crozier unearthed in the natural world. For Crozier, ravaged landscapes symbolised the torment and fear of the post-war condition at the heart of existentialism. In the early 1960s the human figure entered Crozier’s imagery, though often interred in blasted landscape or, as in the work of the 1970s, flayed, skeletal, and screaming. In the introduction to Crozier’s 1961 solo exhibition, G. M. Butcher wrote, “if there is one thing that Crozier wishes to get across in all his painting, it is a mood of fear, anxiety, unease. This is his personal reaction to the world as it is - where savagery is only just beneath the surface.”
From the 1980s, Crozier’s paintings assumed a vivid radiance. Inspired by the landscape of West Cork, a melancholic disquiet is as present in these vibrant mature works as in his early images of traumatised humanity. His youthful skill as a colourist reaches its zenith in paintings that capture the essence and appearance of the West Cork landscape during a period of great change in Ireland.
William Crozier: Savagery Beneath the Surface shows the continuum that runs through all of Crozier’s work, presenting his expressionistic prowess that distills primitivism with the unease of modernity.
A major publication produced by IMMA will accompany this exhibition with new essays by Riann Coulter, Katharine Crouan, Mark Hudson, Enrique Juncosa, Seán Kissane, and Sarah Turner.