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Exhibition reflects on Dunkirk evacuation through work of extraordinary Norfolk artist

An extraordinary four-metre long, Bayeux-style panoramic tapestry of the Dunkirk evacuation is the centrepiece of ‘Threads’, an exhibition of work by Norfolk artist John Craske.

Craske, a Sheringham fisherman who retired at the age of 36 due to failing health, went on to produce stunning needlepoint seascapes and Norfolk coastlines in a career that lasted 20 years until his death in 1943. In May 2015, audiences will have a rare opportunity to see a selection of Craske’s work in The Gallery at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA), some of which has not been on public display before.


Dunkirk Evacuation by John Craske

Craske was born in 1881 and fell ill in 1917. For the rest of his life he moved in and out of what was described as ‘a stuporous state’. In 1923 he started making paintings of the sea and boats and, later, after becoming too ill to continue turned to embroidery, which he could do lying in bed. A book by the renowned author Julia Blackburn and recently published by Jonathan Cape, Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske, contextualises the exhibition. Threads will open to the public 12 May – 6 June 2015 before touring to the Peter Pears Gallery, Aldeburgh, Suffolk within the the Visual Arts Programme of the Aldeburgh Festival.

Neil Powell, NUA Pro Vice-Chancellor says: “This show includes Craske’s unfinished masterpiece ‘The Evacuation of Dunkirk’. His vision of this was gained from impressions gleaned from radio and newspapers rather than from documentary or personal experience and therefore it is even more extraordinary as an exposition of the mind’s eye. We are delighted that we have been able to show this to coincide perfectly with the 75th anniversary of the evacuation and this will give visitors the opportunity to reflect on this symbolic event in European history as well as recalling Craske’s own experiences and understanding of the sea. The tapestry is kindly lent by Norfolk Museums Service and is shown alongside paintings and embroideries from a number of public and private lenders nationally. We are extremely grateful to these lenders in allowing us to bring together this extraordinary body of work from this unique artist.”

‘Threads’ opens to the public on St Georges Street, Norwich on Tuesday 12 May 2015 and admission is free. The show continues until Saturday 6 June, open 12pm to 5pm (closed Sunday and Monday). In conjunction with this exhibition author Julia Blackburn will be speaking on Craske at the UEA Spring Literature Festival on 29 April.

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