Steven Campbell: Wretched Stars, Insatiable Heaven (new work 2006-2007)
Steven Campbell's work may not be to everyone's taste, but it's certainly powerful and affecting. Large-scale paintings assail the viewer with bright colours; paisley patterns merge with abstract designs and motifs borrowed from art history while Campbell's intense personal symbolism is used to create strange and unsettling narratives featuring murderous man-children, flocks of birds and figures eerily emerging out of areas of abstraction. With titles such as 'Baby Face Killer' and 'Psycho Rugs' alongside a collection of portrait sketches inspired by contestants on The Apprentice, unusual subject matter is par for the course here.
Shown across two venues (the Mackintosh Gallery at the Glasgow School of Art and the Glasgow Print Studio) this exhibition consists of previously unseen work completed prior to the artist's untimely death last summer, as well as a smattering of older prints and studies. As Campbell often created series' of works, it is exciting to be able to follow the connections, and the development of the artist's personal mythology, as you move from painting to painting.
The mass of colour, paint, narrative and symbolism on display may overwhelm some visitors, but for others it will form part of the attraction. It's hard not to take a step back upon entering the more intimate space at the Glasgow Print Studio when confronted with Campbell's uncanny work 'Scratched out, it's all in the wrists (self-portrait)', which incorporates a near life-sized full-length portrait of the artist, surrounded by an other-worldly glow with an angel/devil holding horns above his head.
While the recent paintings may be the stars of the show, it's worth spending time with some of the older artworks: pen and ink sketches relating to the life and work of Walt Whitman are beautifully and economically executed, while Campbell exactingly illustrates an acute sense of menace and foreboding in the 'Rosslyn Experience' woodcut.
Campbell's legacy lies in this complete body of work, and these two exhibitions surely set the scene for a full-scale museum retrospective at some point in the future. Judging by the art on display here, despite his untimely death, Campbell's star is still on the rise.
Glasgow Print Studio, until Sun 28 Sep; Glasgow School of Art, until Sat 11 Oct