Chris Campbell is an artist based in Leeds, England, whose painting Glass House (pictured above) was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2019. The oil painting shows off his skill in rendering light and, like much of his work, it explores the urban experience and its mundanities, capturing a contrasting feeling of remoteness and romanticism. The quiet mastery of his use of oils makes vivid the scenes of discarded rubbish, nocturnal empty suburbia, burned-out cars, and landscapes which tiptoe on the edge of desolation. We spoke with Chris to find out more about his painting process, the materials he uses, and how he develops his work.
Daniel: Hi Chris, please tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education.
Chris: I did my degree at what was formerly Leeds Metropolitan University, graduating in 1998. It was a course at the time that was almost completely for painters, it didn’t seem any medium was as celebrated and pushed as much as oil painting.
Regarding my background prior to that, I grew up drawing, with graphite, charcoal, and pastels mostly. I honed my skills doing life drawing and making studies from the class skeleton. I’ve always been into art as I’m very shy and it’s a good way to express yourself without being seen in the public eye.
Daniel: How would you describe your practice?
Chris: My practice has almost always been figurative, although I do hugely appreciate abstract painting. I lean towards photorealism and that was always my early drive, to make paintings that looked photographic. As time and my skills have developed, I have pushed the work to have almost impressionist mark making yet retain the photographic elements.
Daniel: Is there a particular story or idea behind the shortlisted work Glass House?
Chris: True to the banal life I live, it’s simply a case of something simple and chance. It’s my neighbour’s greenhouse. I was putting out the bins, it was foggy and his security light was backlighting it. It just seemed to be glowing. He seemed genuinely surprised to know that I’d encapsulated his greenhouse in oils!
Daniel: What interests you about creating art from these everyday scenes, from objects and places others might consider “mundane”?
Chris: I am drawn to the mundane and banal because most people just never notice it. There’s something about looking at a bin or a smashed up car and seeing beauty. Then when you paint it, it’s like sharing what you’ve seen with everyone else.
Daniel: How do you usually select the location for your works, and do you prepare studies on location, take photographs, or have another method?
Chris: The advancement of camera phones has helped enormously. I take photos and edit them in the paint. As much as my paintings are realistic, they rarely ever are anything like a facsimile of the photograph.
I used to draw and make studies but I’ve slipped on that front, I’d like to get back to drawing again.
Daniel: What are your most important artist’s tools? Do you have any favourites?
Chris: My love is for linen but it’s very pricey as I’m sure everyone reading this will testify to. I love Claessen’s Belgian acrylic primed linen, although I’m happy to slum it with a good 12oz cotton duck.
The paint of choice of me is Old Holland. Top tip colours are Old Holland Blue Deep, Sepia Extra and Transparent Oxide Red Lake.
I use synthetic hogs as they retain their shape for longer and are less scratchy in my opinion.
I varnish with Golden MSA varnish as it doesn’t yellow and is UV resistant. I used to work in art retail and I could geek out about materials all day!
Daniel: What draws you to painting with oils?
Chris: I love oils! But for so many reasons. Obviously, the things that can be done with them. However I love the physicality of paint. There is an aesthetic just in paint itself. Artists like Frank Auerbach and Jenny Saville come to mind.
Another thing I’ve found with oils is it’s hard work. It’s been many years of playing and learning, yet even now they can surprise you. I guess I still relish the challenge.
Daniel: What is a good day in the studio for you?
Chris: A good day in the studio? The right music and a nice glass of red wine. Depending on how into the painting I am is how long I can go for. If it’s not going to plan, I always find other jobs to do instead. It’s usually cleaning the bathroom.
Daniel: What are your artistic influences? Who are some of your favourite contemporary artists?
Chris: Influence wise, early on it was the photorealism movement. John Salt and David Hepher come to mind. Discovering George Shaw was a revelation at the time. I love Impressionism and romanticism. My favourite current three artists are Justin Mortimer, Nigel Cooke and Jonny Green.
Daniel: In the studio – music, audiobook, Radio 4 or silence?
Chris: Always music. I simply can’t paint without it. The music I’m listening to will often be the conductor of the painting more than I am, if that makes sense? I can mention so much here but to keep it shortish, Mogwai, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode, Bill Callahan, The Rachel’s, Low.
Current favourites in the studio are Anna Von Hausswolff and A winged victory for the sullen. I realise that wasn’t such a short list but it does demonstrate how important it is to the process.
Daniel: What is coming up next for you and where can we see more of your art in the flesh or online?
Well, I’ll be entering this years Jackson’s Painting Prize again! I’m in two shows local to me in Leeds. This month I’m in a show at Sunny Bank Mills Called ‘Points Of View’. Then in February, I will be doing a two-person show at the Bowery called ‘In Plain Sight’.
Click here to find out more about Jackson’s Painting Prize 2020
Featured Image: Glass House, 2018, Christopher Campbell, Oil on Canvas, 45 x 65 cm. Shortlisted for Jackson’s Painting Prize 2019.