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!                                                                                          

Monday, 2 May 2016

 #DAK 01- Reflections - Other work'

Outside the comfort zone is always an interesting place to be, it's there to side foot you, to challenge what you think you know and in the case of #DAK 01, to come up with something within an environment and pretty damn quickly!

As part of The Planning Dept collective alongside fellow artists: Graham Patterson , Felicity Bristow & James Wyness we put on an inaugural exhibition housed in the old bakery in Jedburgh. The collective aims to put on a number of exhibitions a year in spaces that are no longer in use, to highlight the environment's past life and  to make work inspired by the site.

The walls had the most amazing patina, caused by years of water ingress leading to a variety of coloured organisms growing on its surface! First site visit was in early Feb and it was colder in, than out and that really continued up until the exhibition's opening; not completely true, it was still cold, just not as cold.

I felt a sense of connection when seeing the space with the series that I had been working on: Hidden History + Hidden Meaning = the use of textile pattern suggesting interior (decoration) space and the expression “ if walls could talk” alludes to the passage of time; it comes down to layers, the act of editing internal space both physical and mental scars, erosion, revelation and ultimately, the trapping of time. This became the starting point.

Taking a textile screen with a Fleur De Lys / Damask motif, I began to explore the idea of past domestication; the bands on the wall suggesting dado rail, I printed directly onto the wall using a metallic copper (historically these motifs were associated with wealth = class) and the fact that the print did not always adhere due to the unstable nature of the wall's surface lent itself to the idea of previous ownership. 

Next was to make wallpaper and to apply a clean version of the 'dirty' wall onto itself.

Finally adding drypoint etchings

Working on this scale was a new challenge, it was important that the wall itself was an integral part of the image rather than as a support for hanging the art work. I wanted the viewer to look at the naturally occurring elements within the wall as much as the additions; to this extent the printed matter was placed in a non traditional format to help to facilitate this.

Another dimension to the project was the temporary nature of the exhibition itself, adding another layer of time to the history of the bakery's internal environment. Apart from the etchings, the rest remains and will eventually be covered up as part of any refurbishment but, will always be a part of its Hidden History. 

Felicity Bristow

James Wyness

Graham Patterson

James Wyness

Graham Patterson

Felicity Bristow

Sound James Wyness

Another exhibition that I am pleased to be part of is:

Curated by Inge Panneels the exhibition is the culmination of a three day residency at the Haining in Selkirk. The remit was to create works in response to  the site (house and grounds); temporary interventions that were both individually and collaboratively made. Whilst technically not part of the full 3 day programme, (having arranged a day for our students to take part) I couldn't resist returning for the last day to take part. It was great to see what was being created, to see so many propositions utilising a wide variety of media and hear so many voices embracing the challenge.

The Hive was created with Inge, as we walked around the grounds we both thought that the hollow in a tree needed something: The Hive. The cool thing in doing this work was getting to use glass glue cured by UV enabling us to construct the piece without it falling apart, which the initial non glued version did!


On the way back to the house to glue the glasses I recorded the sound, this resulted in the idea to combine it with the installation.


The next installation involved one of two stained glass windows that I came across when clearing out my Father's house, I have no idea of their origin and kept them because .... this led to 'Absence' 
There are a number of ideas at play in this installation. The window as a portal, looking into the past, the stained glass with religious overtones, whilst the burn continues to wash away/cleanse/ purify our memory/ soul. An act of remembrance.

Alongside these forays into the unknown I have endeavoured to maintain the same approach in my studio practice. There is very little, if anything, that comes close to the intensity of feeling when engaged in the act of making work, those moments of serendipitous delight, but, of course, the voyage of discovery is beset by the inevitable turbulent waves of doubt! 

110cm x110 cm                                                                                                                    Thinking of the Bakery Nō1

110cm x 110cm                                                                                                             Thinking of the Bakery Nō2

Thinking of the Bakery Nō3

110cm x 110cm                                                                                                                Internal Edit - Random Act

110cm x 110cm                                                                                                                          Absence of Memory

110cm x 110cm                                                                                                                                          Ooh

work in progress 110cm x110cm