Art

Unpainting Canvases: A Look Into Callum Innes

This Scottish artist’s work is often described as “mesmerizing”, “entrancing” and even “magical”. I was lucky to encounter a couple of his paintings at Art Basel Hong Kong in March this year at Ingleby Gallery’s booth. His artworks did strike me as I walked past – standing for at least 15minutes with eyes glued to the purple-wonder canvas. I was completely charmed by its smoothness in texture, striking colour and technique. I was this close of taking it home but unfortunately, I don’t have ten thousand odd pounds in my pocket.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Callum Innes started exhibiting in the mid-to-late 1980s. Subsequently, he has emerged and forged a worldwide reputation as one of the most significant abstract painters of his generation. Since the 1990s, Innes has explored monochrome paintings in highly innovative ways, creating minimalist geometric abstract works.

Exposed Painting Dioxazine Violet. Seen at Art Basel Hong Kong - March 2016

Exposed Painting Dioxazine Violet. Seen at Art Basel Hong Kong – March 2016

Exposed Painting Cadmium Orange, 2008, Oil on linen, 160 x 156 cm. From artist’s website.

Exposed Painting Cadmium Orange, 2008, oil on linen, 160 x 156 cm. From artist’s website.

Monologue Black Eleven, 2007, oil on canvasn, 222.5 x 222.5 cm. From artist’s website.

Monologue Black Eleven, 2007, oil on canvas, 222.5 x 222.5 cm. From artist’s website.

 

The paintings’ apparent simple layout disguise their actual complexity in construction. Described as a “consummately controlled and methodical craftsman”, each artwork goes through a careful and meticulous process. Each layer of paint is scraped, dissolved, eliminated, eroded and uncovered as Innes works with the natural properties of oil, turpentine and shellac. In his recent series titled “Exposed Paintings”, a single colour mixed by the artist is brushed onto the canvas. Then turpentine is repeatedly applied by brush to remove the paint before it begins to dry. Innes then washes away or as he described it “unpaints” the canvas leaving all but the faintest remaining traces of colour. As a result, the canvas reveals varied veils of colour buried within the seemingly monochrome single pigment. Each finishes of paint suggests a freezing in time of the otherwise momentary arrest of an ongoing process.

Callum Innes is now characteristically recognised for his cooly atmospheric abstractions, not to mention the process of adding and subtracting applications of paint through its removal of turpentine.

Even though his paintings may not depict anything, or may appear inexpressive, his works have nonetheless a powerful and remarkable emotive presence.

Recently exhibited at FRIEZE New York this May at Sean Kelly gallery, one of his Exposed Paintings titled “Exposed Paintings Delft Blue” (2016) sold for £40,000 to a lucky buyer.

 

For more information: check out Innes’ website

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