Steven Campbell @ Tramway, Glasgow

Love presents a less recognisable slice of renowned painter, multimedia artist and New Glasgow Boy Steven Campbell's prolific practice

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 14 Feb 2018
  • Steven Campbell: Study for 'Frottage of the Void', 1988

The current Tramway exhibition of a specific part of Steven Campbell’s (1953-2007) oeuvre successfully manages to surprise audiences that might have a well- or half-remembered idea of Campbell’s painting practice. Titled Love, it's a show made up almost entirely of the careful collage works that he made from 1988-1991. With emphasis moving completely from painting to collage, there’s an important shift from the usually very illustrative images to more ambiguous and slower reveals.

This effect is mostly down to the careful collaging technique that spans all of the works on show. While there are moments of more conventional cut paper collage, these are set within the context of painstakingly built-up areas of painted cut string, individually placed onto the surface.

An excellent instance of these moments of the surprising visual revelations set up by this technique comes in the blue strings of various shades delicately arranged into the heads and shoulders of two figures, whose lower halves are rendered in more immediately noticeable pinks and fleshy browns. It creates a subtle feeling of the figures slowly fading into the watery coloured sky, suggesting a complicated passing away, while a baby seems to slide off the bottom of the picture surrounded by zigzagging greens and oranges. All the more poignant as its title (Birth of Eurithia with Drowned Family) reveals it is an imagining of the myth of Orithyia who was taken by envious and lecherous gods.

Across the dozen or so collages, moments like these contextualise some of the familiar cues of Campbell’s works – stylistically proportioned figures, a sense of the surreal, whirling pictorial dimensions and spaces. The sensuously textural surfaces and complicated rendering of bodies and space reveal themselves more slowly, creating the constant sense that the works might yet reveal just another hidden figure and strike another unexpected note of intrigue.

Steven Campbell: Love, Tramway, Glasgow, until 25 Mar