Steven Campbell Calendar September & October 

Work 1, September. Gouache on Paper

3ft by 4ft approx

This image is a depiction of an actual event we witnessed while living in New York.

Steven and I were in the subway station close to our home in Lafayette Street waiting for an uptown connection. 

The station was not busy so was relatively quiet allowing us to hear this rustling and squeaking sound coming from below the platform. We looked down to see a large rat with its head stuck way inside a donut bag running along the side of the track. It had obviously been eating the remnants of a discarded donut and had somehow got itself stuck inside the bag. True story!

As ever with Steven the story becomes wrapped in an enigma of references and composition.

We have the quasi self portrait of the train driver or the director of the piece while the curving train track draws on similarities with the track from his Crash Cubism piece for the Third Eye Centre exhibition of ‘On Form and Fiction’

There are other similarities too with the cut up figures and the general feeling of impending doom as the train/subway hoves into sight.

Carol Campbell

September 2021


Work 2. The October image is a mock up Poster for ‘The Caravan Club’ exhibition. 

Talbot Rice Gallery 2002

Caravan Club Poster

Mixed media:  Acrylic on thin card with masking tape

Size: 28 x 38 cm 

The following is an extract from the exhibition catalogue by Duncan Macmillan.

‘Campbell’s chosen title for this exhibition is The Caravan Club, but as he chooses to use the word caravan and not the Americanism, trailer, and as the caravans themselves appear in the paintings, these are not the glossy mobile homes of an American trailer park, already in Hollywood films iconographic short-hand for a transient world beyond the edge of conventional ordered society. Instead they are the bizarre extension into mobile form of the complacent everyday, suburban world that is presented by the British holiday caravan. They clutter up our roads, doddering along behind underpowered family saloons, their drivers believing themselves secure in their cocoon of suburban life-style, oblivious to the boiling rage and frustration of the snaking tail of cars compelled to follow. Not that Campbell’s subject is the fulfilment of some fantasy of road rage by frustrated drivers. It is rather that seen thus the caravan and the feeble protection offered by its flimsy cocoon of normality are a metaphor for the fragility of the ordinary, everyday world. A thin skin of fibreglass is all that protects the caravan’s cosy interior, a tidy little simulacrum of the known and familiar world, from the hostility of the world around and the arbitrariness of fate. We all tow something like it behind us, our belief in the order of the ordinary; but it is no defence against sudden and radical decline into rampant disorder in the wider world over which we have no control. 

As an interesting aside The Caravan Club (the organisation) got in touch with the Talbot Rice and were threatening to sue over copyright infringement of their name so disclaimer notices had to be placed throughout the exhibition to inform the public that the works on show had nothing to do with the actual Caravan Club. This just added another layer of frisson to the proceedings.

Life imitates art yet again!

Carol Campbell

October 2021 



2 Preparatory sketches for ‘The Golden City’

A commission from the BAA Art programme 

Gouache on paper 1994 

In May 1994, the worlds largest commercial operator of airports, BAA plc, launched a different type of programme – an art programme – to enhance passenger, staff and business partner experience of all its airport environments and develop an art collection of national merit.

“I want to emphasise the importance of first impressions and the need to give our visitors a strong sense of Britain’s energy as soon as they arrive. That could be done if we used our airports, train links and ports as opportunities to give a fresh impression. BAA is determined to champion British artists at its airports.”

Tony Blair, Prime Minister.

Steven was approached to come up with an idea for a large painting for Glasgow Airport and the following is his own description as it appeared in the catalogue for BAA art programme: Art at the Airports.

“This painting is made up of three views of the City of Glasgow: the Clyde Estuary; the view from the countryside; a view from the University Tower.

The symbolism of the painting centres around the story of the emblem of Glasgow. It also takes account of St Mungo’s stories, trying to give history a vision. I’ve aimed to get the balance between nature and the city; the ‘Dear Green Place’, idea. 

It’s been tempting to add something dramatic, but it would have been the wrong thing to do for the location. It’s not the place to be dark and moody. No way. I want people to be uplifted; invigorated. I love Glasgow!”

The two sketches shown here both feature fritillaries which are a nod to Mackintosh but also to the fact that they grew wild in the ground surrounding our farmhouse in the Fintry hills. The signpost was a leitmotif in Steven’s earlier work based around his invented character Hunt and often depicted Oxford to Salisbury, but in this case shows directions to areas surrounding our then home.  The background hills are the view that Steven often painted and form part of the vista that can be seen from our Kippen home. 

Carol Campbell

July 2021

Steven Campbell Calendar, April

Steven Campbell Calendar, April

No Title from the Extreme Sports Series
Oil on Canvas 
234 x 226cm

The paintings in this short series were completed or not (final piece still on wall in his studio) in the months leading up to Steven’s death, hence the fact that they remain untitled except for the overarching series name of Extreme Sports, which was what Steven had called them when describing the ideas to me.

It seems such a simple idea but at the same time so left field and such an insight into the workings of his mind, to take innocuous pastimes and by a shift in positioning, or an addition, completely turn the world upside down.

Here the two activities of gardening, a safe and homely pastime and archery, more dangerous it’s true but in a very disciplined way, combine to bring real threat. The little girls in their greenhouse remain blissfully unaware of the looming danger from the archer aiming for his target placed directly behind them. There is no certainty of the outcome one way or the other, but it has the frisson of danger which give rise to the series title.

Their protection lies in the figure emerging from the chimney seemingly harmless, but look again to see what he is reaching for above his head, a wooden puppet figure of Pinocchio – is he throwing it to save it from the smoke emerging from the chimney, with its implication of fire, or trying to grab hold, to draw it downwards to destruction, so the viewer decides is it to protect or destroy?

Similarly, the woodsman continues to cut the trees around them down . . . to fashion more Pinocchios? or to decimate the treehouses? an acknowledgment of the circular nature of our world and the recklessness of such easy unthinking destruction.

The background, top left, is, as ever a mix of Scottish and Italian buildings but the hills are those he painted most frequently being the ones he would see daily from our woodland home.  The figure of the archer on the right is dressed in his tartan trews and motorcycle boots, although he never owned a motorcycle and is a direct representation of Steven (a thank you here to Beca Lipscombe and Mairi MacKenzie for making me look with fresh eyes at the textiles and design elements in his paintings) and like Steven himself is dressed with two belts, both accurate depictions of his own, which he wore daily which now adorn the family ‘memory box’.

Carol Campbell

Steven Campbell Calendar, March

Steven Campbell Calendar, March

From the installation:
On Form and Fiction

Sad Dirty Little Angel
Acrylic and ink on paper
Created 1989 – 1990

This work is currently in storage at the National Gallery of Scotland having first been exhibited at The Third Eye Centre, Glasgow (currently the CCA) and most recently as part of Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland.

The image I have selected is a personal favourite titled: Sad Dirty Little Angel. It is was one of the large acrylic works which rest against a backdrop of ink drawings on various subjects, which were of great interest to Steven while he was making the installation. These range from:

– The films of Tarkovsky most especially Mirror
– The architecture of Claude Nicolas Ledoux
– The writings and drawings of John Ruskin
– Cezanne’s Provençal landscape
– Chippendale furniture

Countless more associations are to be found by the viewer of the Installation, images of which can be found on the National Gallery’s website.

The painting shows a descending figure, more demon-like in appearance than Angel, but Steven tried to show its humanity and remorse with the hand raised to the face in a gesture of contrition while accentuating the idea of Lucifer’s fall from Heaven.

Lucifer whose name means Star of the Morning, had a high ranking position in the Angelic Host and was called ‘The Guardian Cherub’:

“So I drove you in disgrace from the Mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour. So I threw you to earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings” (Ezekiel 28)

The figure falls to earth in front of classical buildings drawn from influences of Ledoux’s architecture and reminiscent of renaissance Italy, a country held dear to all our hearts. 

I spoke at the beginning of my love for this image. I have always been drawn to the poetic side of Steven’s works, which in their complexity of imagery and cultural reference offer so many paths of interpretation to the viewer. For me it is the mix of longing and regret that hold great sway and touch upon what makes us human.

Carol Campbell 

Steven Campbell Calendar, January

Steven Campbell Calendar, January

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:

Carol Campbell