Three Identified Forms
By Callum Innes

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Year
1997
Media
Oil Painting
Subject Matter
Abstract
Reg. Number
P860
Size
109 x 104 cm

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The mathematical title "Three Identified Forms" is juxtaposed with an incredibly delicate way of generating composition. One questions whether the forms on the canvas are growing upwards or trickling down. Up close, more delicacies are revealed - fainter lines that have not quite sunk in and have not quite succeeded in totally stripping away the paint. The thin lines are like veins, or the delicate grain burnt wood, which contrasts with the bold density of the almost matte, rich, deep black. The paint has finality and power but is interrupted by moments of light exposed through subtraction.

The bright spots are even more distinct when the painting is studied from a distance - ivory/ochre colours emerging from the darkness, like night rain caught in the light of a street lamp. The atmospheric quality of the piece is created through the technical nature of the process; Callum allows natural elements to fuel the movement of the turpentine across the canvas. Gravity and atmospheric conditions will influence the creation as the artist allows himself to lose control and the painting gains its own momentum through the catalyst of the turpentine.

Callum Innes is an Edinburgh local artist, born in 1962 and arguably one of the most significant abstract painters of his generation. Callum works within the realm of "unpainting" with a technique that explores the varying possibilities of paint on canvas, experimenting with ways of removing oil paint from canvas. His work is unique in the respect that the significant compositional elements of his pieces are generated through subtraction and removal. Callum's work has an atmospheric, ethereal quality.

He began exhibiting in the mid-to-late 1980's and in 1992 had two major exhibitions in public galleries, at the ICA, London and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Since then he has emerged as one of the most significant abstract painters of his generation, achieving widespread recognition through major solo and group shows worldwide.

Callum makes work in a number of different ways, all of which are gradually evolving. The shifts that appear from one series to the next are rarely dramatic, but each new painting builds on those that have gone before in a subtle but constant progression. His characteristic form of coolly atmospheric abstraction has aptly been described as 'unpainting', given that key compositional elements are generally produced, not by the application of paint, but through its removal by washes of turpentine. Each finished painting thus suggests a freezing in time of the otherwise momentary arrest of an ongoing process. The play between the additive and subtractive process, the making and unmaking, underlies this sophisticated body of work.

Innes was short-listed for the Turner and Jerwood Prizes in 1995, won the prestigious NatWest Prize for Painting in 1998, and in 2002 was awarded the Jerwood Prize for Painting. He has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and his work is held in public collections worldwide including the Guggenheim, New York; National Gallery of Australia; TATE, London, and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. From Memory, a major exhibition of Callum Innes' work over the past 15 years, was shown at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in 2007, and toured to Modern Art Oxford, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

Art in Healthcare's blog entry about Callum Innes


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