Harry to Heaven
Mixed media 1995
This piece was created for an exhibition called ‘Chesterfield Dreams’ at the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney in the Spring of 1996.
Steven had moved away from painting at this time and had found a new fascination in working with clay, found objects, velvet and leather fabrics and a resin called (if I remember correctly) Crystal Sheen, an epoxy coating that he used on several works and continued to use even when he returned to painting. You can see how he used it in a similar way to decorate the jewel like eyes on the crown in the portrait of Joan Sutherland, a commission for the Glasgow Concert Hall.
Steven had been struggling with his own mental health issues for a number of years and had fallen out of the public gaze but he continued to work every day. As he said himself: ‘I have an impossibility not to work’ . . . listen to Stark Talk interview 2006: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p090x8hv
He was, as ever, endlessly reading, watching movies, listening to music and making his own crazy Campbell mix in his head. Alfred Hitchcock was a great favourite at this time, hence the title of the piece Harry to Heaven, the Harry referred to being the eponymous character from the movie The Trouble with Harry a black comedy from 1955, where a dead body is found and while no one in the hamlet really minds they all come up with theories as to how they are responsible.
I always feel it’s better to allow Steven to speak for himself whenever possible so the following is taken again from the Stark Talk radio interview in which he gives his own opinion of his mental health at the time and his thoughts on the exhibition at the Pier.
STEVEN: You still have this other thing you know, of the pointlessness of it all. All these stupid questions of existence and everything. The constant echoes that go on in my mind all the time, it’s like constantly saying this, what’s the reason? Why? Why? Why? No reason! No reason! The impossibility of it all.
EDI: Well between 1993 and 2002, that was the time between two big shows at The Talbot Rice Gallery
STEVEN: Jesus years! Why is it always 7?
EDI: That’s nine, that’s nine
STEVEN: Is it 9? I thought it was 7…. I had one up in Orkney
EDI: Chesterfield Dreams
STEVEN: I loved that show! I mean who’d think of it, the back of a couch a sofa then cut a strange shape in it and then put in a white plaster sculpture inside it as if the chair itself is dreaming.
And that last sentence sums up for me everything I continue to miss from my life. The poetry of a mind that can see the dream where the rest of us only see the chair.
STEVEN CAMPBELL 19/3/1953 – 15/8/2007