Monday, 3 July 2017

The ebb & flow 

... still searching ... moments of  ...  

understanding ... not understanding ... clarity ... confusion ... wonderment ... disillusionment ...

Regardless of how long I have been a practicing artist, the ebb & flow of creativity is still, a seesaw; a careful balancing act, one in which I am both instigator and onlooker, reacting to something; invariably uncertain of its outcome until (possibly) much later on. All of this dialogue constantly moving back & forth between demand and response creates, extreme highs and lows. Of course, it's a natural part of the creative process but it certainly doesn't get any less mentally exhausting.

On the other hand, Andy Warhol said ' Don't think about making art, just get it done...'

Early part of the year involved preparing for a new group exhibition:

It was great to be exhibiting with Inge and Sam, artists whose work I admire, working respectively in glass and photography. We were working around a loose theme; so loose that we did not actually talk about what we were proposing and, in fact, it wasn't until the hanging day that we each found out what each other were showing. It was such a pleasant surprise to see how well the work went together and this was something that a lot of visitors commented on.
I began exploring the idea of "Lost Heritage", thinking about the textile industry and how it was originally so important to the Scottish Borders, every town having a mill; the reality now is different, whilst a few places still exist, it is on a very small scale.

Using screens that had photographic knitted patterns on them (courtesy of Grace at HWU), the starting point was to randomly print onto the canvasses and to then work out its direction.


Lost Heritage Nō 1

Lost Heritage Nō 2

Lost Heritage Nō 3

Lost Heritage Nō 4

Lost Heritage Nō 5

Lost Heritage Nō 6

Lost Heritage Nō 7

Naturally things seep into the psyche and can present themselves in unexpected ways. The following works are a mash up of responses to world events, not as a direct result of one particular thing; I cannot help but be affected by the consequences of interference in other societies and how this perpetuates a ripple effect. A sense of disassociation is ever present, soundbites and spin, we are encouraged to abhor atrocities (and quite rightly) but not those carried out in our name? We never deal with the elephant in the room! 

In 'Payload Overview' there is the irony in the delicate translucent airy quality of looking down onto a tapestry landscape moments before the cargo of destruction will impact. I have always been struck by the video footage from bombing sorties on the news and how we see them as images, so far removed from the reality. It becomes pure cinema, edited and pictorially pleasing. In this regard, there is a sense of irony in all of my images too. 

Payload Overview





Consequence Nō 3

State of Flux


Displacement Nō 4

Drawing still remains an integral part of my practice and, in particular the challenge of direct observational drawing. It forces you to take time out in this fast moving immediate world, to question what it is that you are seeing and, attempt to solve the problem in front of you.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Creation - Exasperation - Jubilation

The quest continues for the elusive image

It's official, my Pecha Kulcha rant is now live: Pipe, Slippers and TS Eliot

Naturally the process of breaking everything down into 20 images X 20 seconds was incredibly challenging, condensing what I wanted to show and wanted to say into what proved to be a very small segment of time was very enlightening; it forces you to adopt a discipline in approach, curtailing any chance of over waffling ( something I am prone to) because once the 20 slides have past by, it's over. One minute you are talking, the next minute, you're not!

I am still in pursuit of the elusive image. In the studio there are moments of genuine lucidity in the act of creation, the process of making imagery that comes out of a symbiotic triangular relationship between the material, image and myself. Knowing that it exists makes me want to find it again, there is a real moment of transcendence, clarity, where everything is 100% intuitive, an unknown force guiding the act of making work. Of course, the greatest test is maintaining this magic and invariably once you become aware of this mercurial essence of creation, it disappears! 

The process of reflection brings with it uncomfortable revelations; these revelations whilst making for uncomfortable reading are also informative and force me to confront my creative shortcomings. Inevitably this introspection brings about  internal dilemmas that need working through. Thoughts are governed by multiple spikes of consciousness, popping in and out. It is these multi-layered thoughts that create doubt. Why do I allow myself to be affected? Why do I take it all too seriously? I want to understand. The world is a fucking mess, governments and extremists alike indiscriminately killing scores of innocent people as they vie for power and control, not giving a shit about what stands in their way. People still continue to die from illnesses that rely on charity donations to find a cure. Try not to tell me that's not fucked up. Governments and Multi-Nationals need people to die, it's part of the quid pro quo of the capitalist system, after all, shareholders need their dividends. Perhaps it's because we are heading towards Old Year's Night, that the sense of "what is it seriously all about" is, heightened. 

Melancholia @54
Melancholia @54 about sums it up! Realisation that there is this veil that enwraps me and begins the process of suffocation, removing all ability to combat the curtain that descends. Aware, yet unable to avoid its calling. I wear it like a shroud, I can sense its putrid ambition to contain me.There are many times when I am unable to shake off this cloud that hovers over me.

A Sense of Loss

A Sense of Hope

There are a variety of underlying references in the images, not known at the outset but realised as the works reach their conclusion.
The three images all stated out like this laid  out together on the studio floor.

I was pleased to have taken part in the SSA exhibition this year at the RSA in Edinburgh 

and even more delighted when the exhibition was reviewed in The Scotsman where Duncan Macmillan said: " Niall Campbell also uses screen print, combining it with other media in From the Inside, a beautiful, abstract composition exploiting contrasts of warm and cold in black, grey, blue and white." It felt great to see that someone had connected with the work and chose to mention it in a national newspaper. Forgive my jubilation, it's always a boost and gives me ( rightly or wrongly) validation to keep ploughing my own furrow. I have spent so long questioning and being visually confused by things around me. Amazing how such a small thing can keep you going!

The Majorcan series, work inspired by multi tiered mashed memories has so far produced these responses:

Majorca Nō 3

Majorca Nō 4

Majorca Nō 5

Majorca Nō 6

Blood Eagle



The importance of play cannot be under-estimated. Allowing for things to go awry, to materialise and to lead you off on a different journey is so informative.
Picture making is the visual equivalent of elevator music; it is pleasant, it is irrelevant, it is about nothing, it is vacuous, it is without an opinion, it is devoid of a voice. Its aim is to be nice, to be decorative. It offers nothing.  Surely it is better to make imagery that attempts to voice an opinion and spectacularly fail than turn out trite shite, or, is it?  

             The only problem with the studio extension is, I want it to be bigger! 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Persistent consistent doubts, resilience and Pecha Kucha

Investigations into things that I am still not sure about.

Given all of the above, what is it that drives me forwards? 

 It's an inexplicable desire to discover something that is visually just out of reach, tantalisingly close, yet, so far away. I can feel it beckoning to me in the act of making, a joyous uplifting elation in the way that the image magically develops, only to be disillusioned on re-entering the studio. The search brings with it a whole host of rewards, witnessing relationships in colour, translucency and form, but it still throws up more questions than answers. Naturally this creates a need to pursue and explore further and at the same time creates new bouts of uncertainty. 

But hey, if it was good enough for Monet : "Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment." 

Obsession is a key driver. Many times I have been bewildered by what I see around me, not able to understand. I think this has possibly become more so as time marches on. I still believe passionately in this:

That making art is about asking questions, that the journey itself is of greater importance, what you discover along the way will enrich you and that the final image is the by-product of an act of investigation. Sometimes the journey is tough, throwing up many obstacles in its path (inadequacies in material handling is usually there at the fore leading to inevitable doubt, highlighting how little you know). and sometimes, the journey is smoother, things just appear to fall into place. Arghhh! At present I am working on an image that is 100% the former type of journey and it really is teasing me into dead ends, forcing me to constantly reevaluate what is happening and makes for a tumultuous rollercoaster ride into the unknown. I get totally immersed in the act of making, watching reactions between wet translucent paint, sometimes I wish someone could witness this aspect of creation and have started to play with the idea of filming the process. Unfortunately the inanimate nature of the camera cannot reveal the innate responses that occur.

Doubts still pervade my thoughts, the merit of the work and fear of failure. How do you measure these? What do you use as a benchmark? It's all very well and good making the work, but, what for? What purpose does it serve? What relevance does it have to anything? The fact that it exists is irrelevant, herein lies the dilemma, how do you measure? Here I turn to Len McComb one of my old tutors, he says:

If one person smiles when they see my work it is enough, my life has had a meaning and a shape.

I love this quote because it transcends everything to do with the usual measurements, money and fame, instead it is about human connection; someone else receives something intangible from your work and it affects their psyche, a pure bond not governed by anything other than the human spirit, in the scheme of things that has got to count.

I was part of a Pecha Kucha presentation at the end of August. The theme of my talk was about how Kirk Douglas was responsible for my downfall, pipe & slippers and a bit of 
T.S  Eliot. It was a challenge trying to fit it all into 6.5 mins and to be coherent! 7 others including Felicity Bristow  Linda Lovatt  Firebrand  Andrew MacKenzie rose to the challenge. I think it's a great concept, hopefully its popularity in the Borders will grow and CABN will continue to host a great mix of presenters.

I recently showed work at the Tweeddale Gallery in Peebles, it is always interesting to see the work in another environment, it forces you to see it afresh. Comments also make you rethink about the direction the work is taking, negative or positive.

At the moment all work is water based, using dry pigment, acrylic and household emulsion. This was not a deliberate decision, rather a natural gravitation towards media that I had previously underestimated. It has been and still is a great learning curve. The colour palette is still moving between monochromatic and fuller colour, this again is not deliberate but is very much based on state of mind. 

Tout Seul

Truth Passage

The Big Reveal


Flora 1

Abstention  Nō 4

Out of the Blue                                                 105cm x 105cm

Internal Edit - Random Act                                110cm x 110cm


Using Go Pro time-lapse to document image's progress

Hand of Fate                                 100cm x 100cm

Mallorca Nō 2


Mallorca Nō 1                                                             5ft 8in x 5ft 8in

In Search of Silence                                                 110cm x 110cm

Truth Teller                                                          110cm x 110cm
And in thinking about Nothing, I think about Everything                                           175cm x 100cm

Hope Springs Nō 1

Hope Springs Nō 2

Dead Bed (below) contains multiple conversations, edits, rotations and plenty of doubt. It is reflective of where I find myself, constantly reexamining my state of mind and how I am currently viewing the world around me. Purpose, direction, confusion it's all there in the mix, trying to understand all of it is a mind fuck. The news is full of stuff that makes no sense, killing is to the fore, greed is to the fore, power and control and the saddest fact of all is that people buy into it. No wonder my head hurts!

Dead Bed

I am continuing to work on the same etching plate, attempting to push the boundaries of serendipity by trying to take as little responsibility for the image as possible. ???
I enjoy the not knowing, it is not until you pull the etching blankets back that the image makes itself known. I also like ambiguity of: "Are they really prints?"  

I just want more time!