Crows, rooks, jackdaws and ravens: corvid, corvus, and corvidae. They are considered to be cosmopolitan creatures endowed with a preternatural intelligence. Over 120 species exist and the genus Corvus makes up over a third of the entire family. They are legion and amongst us every single day.
Matthew Krishanu’s crows could be described as relatives of sorts, sharing similarities of pose and abstracted form, always painted singly and never in flight. Standing on twin legs gives them an anthropomorphic quality, looking directly at the viewer or stepping awkwardly away. Krishanu has been documenting London crows for over seven years and painting their intimate portraits in oil on canvas board. He has captured the minutiae of their lives – perching, feeding, pacing or standing – that only a sustained period of observation could reveal.
In the space of the Stuart Hall Library, systems of classification, taxonomy and assemblage come into focus. The crows emerge between shelves and bask alongside books, populating the collection with their delicate, comical and eerie presence. Painted in rich tones of black, blue and brown, often against a pale background, this cast of distinctive magical birds has flocked to the library seeking refuge from the outside for a while. When we look up and around, the sometimes-solitary practice of reading is suspended by their curious companionship.
Matthew Krishanu (b. 1980) was born in Bradford and is based in London. He completed an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2009.
Exhibitions include: House of Crows, Matt’s Gallery, London; The Sun Never Sets, MAC, Birmingham; A Murder of Crows, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2019); The John Moores Painting Prize 2018, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; In the City, East Gallery, Norwich (2018); Contemporary Masters from Britain, Yantai Art Museum, Jiangsu Art Museum, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, China (2017-2018); Aviary, Transition Gallery, London (2016); Contemporary Drawings from Britain, Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts, China (2015); Another Country, The Nunnery, London (2014). He has works in collections including the Arts Council Collection, Priseman-Seabrook Collection, and Jiangsu Art Museum, China.
Image: Matthew Krishanu, Crow (profile, green), detail, 2019, oil on board, 20 x 15cm. Photo: Peter Mallet. Image courtesy of the artist.