November: 1992 Acrylic on Paper 178×149.2 cm
Pinocchio, The Habit of the Shrike
The following extract is from the Catalogue essay by Michael Bracewell that accompanied Steven’s 2017 exhibition at Marlborough London.
‘For so often the young men in Campbell’s paintings, absorbed, swept along or subjugated by weird scenes, reminiscent of fairy tale or myth, but then skewed into absurdity, seem despite themselves to be (and are sometimes confirmed to be, in the titles of the pictures) seekers-after-truth, of one sort or another. They might be poets, amateur philosophers, witness participants in a dysfunctional’Pilgrims Progress’ – or perhaps just observers of these pursuits: chance bystanders, local boys, who had somehow become amnesiac victims, or protagonists in some cosmic game of ‘Cluedo’.
Murder mystery becomes art mystery, becomes “the myth of themselves” that Hynes identifies in his definition of the ‘charade’. Pinocchio, the Habit of the Shrike (1990) depicts a dark landscape with fir trees, a stream, toadstools at the foot of some rocks; and a figure that resembles Campbell himself, his face and upper body in semi shadow, casually yet ritualistically seated on a folded chair, his right hand resting on the handle of an upended tennis racket. A handsomely feathered shrike ( a bird that impales insects and small vertebrates on thorns or spikes, in order to tear them into more manageable pieces) perched on a briar. Meanwhile a gold haired Pinocchio figure, painted limbs scuffed and worn, his ‘liar’s’ nose obscenely and viciously extended to a sharp point, reaches out his long right arm, and impales the seated figure’s stomach with his thin, pointed finger.’ – Michael Bracewell
Steven has revisited his depiction of Lytton Strachey complete with cricket cap only this time he puts himself, as artist, into the central role.
He has created the Pinocchio wooden boy who is resentful at the artists lack of ability to transform him completely into a physical reality.
December: A4 size drawing
Ink on paper from a series of drawings and prints Steven did based on a merging of the life of St Francis of Assisi with the legend of the Apprentice pillar at Rosslyn Chapel.
Steven was not particularly religious but he was extremely spiritual and dearly loved St Francis and everything he represented.
We would make annual pilgrimages to the Church in Assisi which houses the amazing Giotto frescoes of the life of the Saint. I remember he even volunteered to travel out to help in the aftermath of the earthquake that caused such damage to the town and the church.
He also brought along a young Franciscan friar to talk at the creative arts project (9 V) that he had set up to encourage the teenagers of the 9 rural villages around Stirling to get involved in various cultural activities from life drawing to script writing, film directing, music etc. It still resonates today with the young people who attended it all those years ago. Several of whom went on to careers in the arts.