Campbell is widely known for his vivid, figurative paintings, however this unique and rarely seen body of work reflects on a lesser known, experimental area of Campbell’s practice which also includes clay, plaster and papier mache sculpture, drawing, printmaking and textile design. While Campbell’s paintings were often executed with terrific speed; a canvas he claimed could be completed in five days, these large scale, predominantly two dimensional collages were each made over a period of weeks.
Completed over a 3 year period between 1988 and 1991 Campbell worked on the images intensively, in part because of the laborious way in which the artist chose to work with material. Campbell’s bold and often stylised collages were created in part using Matisse’s method of papier decoupe, using cut paper shapes to which he also applied a variety of materials including feathers, string and found textiles.
The compositional elements were roughly outlined in advance but the often complex detail was applied directly and instinctively as he developed the image. The use of string, painted then hand applied was a technique developed by the artist and intended to complicate the process of making, pushing his process and in turn his visual language to the extreme.
“I thought people would be attracted by the sheer craziness of building a work up starting with a piece of string. It was only the madness I was interested in. To do the task was all I believed in. I only believed in applying string every day.”
Steven Campbell in conversation with Duncan McMillan.
The artist's wife Carol Campbell has attributed the development of this body of work to a need for an activity to accompany a period of reflection and contemplation, a form of therapy through which Campbell could come to terms with the changes in his life following the family's return from America. Completed slowly and painstakingly at the kitchen table, amid the rhythms of family life the resulting collages are testament to Campbell’s modest needs, his restless imagination and experimental nature but perhaps even more so to his sensitivity to the world around him.
Love is curated by Linsey Young in collaboration with Tramway. The exhibition will be accompanied by a book which will include a new essay on Steven Campbell’s practice by Michael Bracewell and an interview with Carol Campbell. Supported by Creative Scotland.
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