Callum Innes - From Memory

Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 30 Sep-19 Nov


Abstract painting initially appears to have had a tempestuous and polarised history of either obsessively concealing or proudly parading its own creative process. From Mondrian’s sleek matrix paintings, to Pollock’s grandious splatterings, abstraction seems to have little truck with the inbetweeners. Yet Callum Innes, in spite of his minimalism, has capitalised on this middle ground and built it up into his trademark style.

Painting and unpainting dischordant spaces with layers applied or removed, Innes exploits the tension between canvas and colour, particularly in works such as ‘Exposed Paintings’. This series, as well as his ‘Monologues’, ‘Identified Forms’ and shellac paintings, figure heavily in this weighty mid-career retrospective of the Edinburgh-based artist. And with 15 years’ worth of work on show, this creative process will no doubt be subject to a very public interrogation.

For someone once criticised for creating art that resembles ‘a badly stained wall’, Innes has been closely collaborating with the Fruitmarket to develop the exhibition and, as a result, will hopefully contest such disparaging remarks.

‘I’m not really interested in clean, clear-cut abstract paintings, pure formal exercises,’ he says. ‘I want emotion, but also ambiguity.’ Certainly, Innes deals in ambiguity aplenty, where clues to his painstaking procedure of application and removal are left as telling residue on the surface of the canvas. Small smears, smudges and entrails of paint casually trip-up minimalism’s expected orderliness, while strong planes of colour begin to take form as suggested horizons or architectural planes. Innes’ attempt at emotion, however, is less apparent, but may well prove to be the unanticipated element in this exhibition.

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