Gordon Crook Tribute

I heard the sad news on Friday afternoon that Gordon Crook (b. 1921) had died in Wellington earlier in the day.

I first met Gordon in Wellington in 1973, a year after he’d arrived in New Zealand from the UK. I’d won a competition set up by the National Bank for High School students from throughout the country (I was at Christchurch Boys’ High) to attend a week-long art workshop. Amongst the twenty or so attending I was one of three from Christchurch. Gordon, along with a number of other Wellington-based tutors, including Kate Coolahan and Brian Carmody, ran the workshops. It was a great opportunity and very memorable. Many years later, in 1997 when I opened Campbell Grant Galleries in Christchurch, I knew Gordon was an artist I wanted to exposure to local audiences.

Undoubtedly a gifted artist, Gordon is noted for his amazing tapestries, fabric banners, paintings, collages and playful, fluid screenprints. However, it was Gordon’s child-like enthusiasm and zest for life which truly engaged anyone who met him – a quality that never left him. His design skills were exceptional. A serious reader and a stunning correspondent, his communications (executed on an old typewriter with bold, coloured felt-pen alterations – words crossed-out and re-written in hand) were lively, deeply felt, always amusing. They were full of insightful observations of the world, his dreams and his aspirations, often with a touch of wisdom about the human condition. Collaged cards were a favourite, using his own photographs and found magazine imagery (many of mine with an erotic edge!). In the later years, visits to his delightful Aro Street home were memorable. My last visit, with my partner Mark, was in early January 2009. As always Gordon ‘presented’ afternoon tea in lovely china cups and, in this instance, we shared a delicious apple cake he’d made. Tea and cake – that famous English tradition – was a special time he enjoyed with close friends. And, if he was in the mood, one got to see a glimpse of his latest works … but not always!

With works in public galleries and private collections throughout the country, and numerable notable commissions (Warren & Mahoney buildings: The Chancery in Washington and the Fowler Centre in Wellington) Gordon’s contribution to the visual arts in this country, and overseas is substantial.

Gordon’s sense of questioning – not only about the world but about himself – was always present. His laughter, energy and wonderful smile remain with me.

Grant Banbury
26 August 2011

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  1. Garth Browning #

    Thank you for being one of the few to acknowledge Gordon’s passing. His influence will live on. One of the greats of the NZ art scene, if sadly not in fashion at the moment.

  2. Jill Cassidy formerly Siems #

    By chance in 2012 in a secondhand book shop in Abergavenny,Wales I found and bought the book ‘Making Their Mark’Art,Craft and Design at the Central School 1896-1966 by Sylvia Backemeyer.I had the honour of being taught by Gordon Crook a the Central School Textile Department in London from 1962-1965.He and is work have remained something I have aspired to all my adult life although my creative path has taken me a long way from my original training.I have warm memories of him visiting my husband’s and my home in Chichester Sussex one Christmas Eve and showing him my work .He was down visiting his parents and brother who lived in Chichester as I remember.For our wedding present he gave us four delightful bone china coffee cups and saucers.
    It is with great sadness I now learn of his death last year.I would have liked to have met up with him just once more to talk of old times.Perhaps someone can be kind enough to let me know where I may see some of his work in the UK as I do not imagine I will be visiting New Zealand.With Thanks.

  3. Mrs Martina Wise #

    Dear Mr. Banbury,
    Many thanks for your tribute to Gordon Crook. I have been following him in the wings, my mother having been a student of his.

    You summed him up as I have “known” hiim, in your paragraph: … “Undoubtedly a gifted artist…”

    I would very much appreciate also your putting me in touch with Jill Cassidy (formerly Siems) who has commented above. I recognise her name from 1962-1965, a fellow student of my mother’s. Please feel free to pass her my email if you prefer.

    Treasure your letters! I do!
    With many thanks and best wishes
    Martina Wise, (nee Lindstrom)