Campbell (1931-1989) - Paintings, drawings,
was a man who painted images from his experience
of a literal and literary landscape that he
knew well. He worked in oils, watercolours,
enamels, lino and woodblock printing, and even
sculpture. He fed his abilities as an artist
from daily walks with his dogs through a particular
part of the Suffolk countryside, and he surrounded
himself with a singular library of books out
of which he was able to develop a personal response
to his encounters with the intangible elements
of this life.
'Place is an important
factor. I live here in Suffolk and I try to
get hold of what seems to me the essential 'stuff'
of it; its past also interests me greatly.'
Whilst his images
seem easy to the eye, and they are indeed a
tribute to the obvious joy he took in manipulating
paint on canvas, there is beneath the surface
a constant questioning and exploring of relationships.
These can be between mankind and nature (farmworkers,
gardeners), mankind and its mythology (deities
and nymphs), male and female, old age and youth,
or even the continuous relationship between
the landscape and the seasons.
He saw his relationship
with his work in a similarly workmanlike way:
'A chippie can
continue with his work uninterruptedly while
having a conversation because the tools he is
using have become extensions of his arm and
are not foreign bodies. So it is with painting,
the making of a picture.'
But he went on
to acknowledge that other level of consciousness
at which creativity operates:
'Once the technical
barriers are over, it becomes very nearly a
natural, almost unthinking process....'
use of brush, sponge and finger to articulate
the paint, grew out of his response to the work
of such artists as Pierre Bonnard, David Jones
and Ivon Hitchins, without in any way compromising
his own style. In every painting there is a
sense of the artist's presence: he manages to
suffuse what he is painting with his experience
of that image and in so doing make allusions
to the time of day, season and weather. The
place he is describing might only be an assimilation
of remembered images, but it is accurate in
its portrayal of the spirit of that place.
It is some 15
years since his death, but Peter Campbell's
work has yet to be fully recognised within the
context of a particularly European approach
to the landscape: its integrity and honesty
to its subject matter demand a wider audience.
'My intention is not to reproduce the apparent
physical appearance of the natural world, but
rather to choose and reshape the essence, as
I see it, of the thing seen.'
- October 2004