Frottage of the Void 1988
132 x 110.5cm, Collage on Canvas
This work was most recently seen in the exhibition called ‘LOVE’ curated by Linsey Young at the Tramway in Glasgow’s Southside in 2018.
The show was made up entirely of collages dating from 1988-1991.
These works were produced in a manner that made the process as labour intensive as possible. They were a distraction for a troubled mind and in the way the returning soldiers of WW1 would make elaborate matchstick models, so it was for Steven a drawn out laborious practice, where the only thoughts were formulated around the applying of the materials.
This was one of the first pieces he created using cut paper, string and sticky backed vinyl.
Where the paintings were produced rapidly sometimes in as short a time scale as 5 days these works, especially the complex string pieces took weeks or even months.
To give you an idea of how he would make the process a fundamental part of the whole, the string, which most artists would apply and then paint over was in fact all cut to metre lengths, hand painted in the colours he planned to use the following day, and dried over the Aga in our kitchen. He set up special drying poles (like a clothes pulley) which allowed the string to dry slowly before being cut to size.
This collage was one of the first and like his paintings captures only that moment. There is no before, there is no after only the Now and the imagination of the viewer.
Frottage – ‘the technique of taking a rubbing from an uneven surface to form the basis of a work of art’ and Void ‘a completely empty space’, whereby the Title and the Piece become an endless conundrum.
As an interesting aside. There had been a negative comment in a newspaper or journal (I have to admit to failure of memory here) to do with the title, where the writer was complaining having mixed the art definition of Frottage with the word Frotteurism – the sexual urge relating to the touching or rubbing of genitals against the body of another. I do recall Stuart Morgan (Pre-eminent art critic and writer) who we had got to know when he stayed with us when working on his piece for the Fruitmarket Gallery/Riverside exhibition, offering to go into ‘bat for him’ if there was any more discussion or complaints about the title.
More info, essays and interviews can be found in the catalogue to the Tramway exhibition:
LOVE – Steven Campbell: