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Ian McCallum

No Parking

No Parking, 2017

By Ian McCallum


‘I am interested in the interaction of colour, notions of the everyday, how the body interacts with a painting intuitively, the history of the surface and found elements and through layering, creating a visual anthropology’ - Ian McCallum


Using colour systems as a measure of their harmony to me is not a flexible enough way to construct a painting.  Therefore I do not start with a particular set of rules that each painting will be constructed, rather I let the painting almost paint itself by revealing to me a direction to travel.  Each interaction with the painting is different due to my body's relationship with the surface, external factors of space, time and light all come into play.  Colour systems work when analysed under a controlled environment with equal weight and light sources, they disregard visual displacements exerting changing influence on the intended harmony. By allowing the painting to be my vehicle for understanding new ways of seeing must be implemented to gain a taste for colour; quantity, intensity and weight and how these can lead to new relationships, to different measurements, and to other systems.  If you compare colour harmony to symmetry, through flexible imagination, discovery and invention, it is possible to create equilibrium between colour tensions that speak to a more dynamic asymmetry within the composition of the painting.  In No Parking, 2017 it is evident that my work is an attempt to understand the intuitive,  leaving behind a trail to show where I have been forming a diary of the mind's eye.


I am interested in the idea of a visual diary and how I ‘collect, accumulate, gather, preserve, examine, catalogue, read, look, study, research, change, organise, file, cross-reference, number, assemble, categorize, classify and conserve’.1  Ian Breakwell’s Diary 1964 - 1985 documents everyday occurrences, through photography, sometimes with accompanying text.  This is a point of departure in my work utilising a less direct notion of the diary and simply embracing the poetics of noticing and drawing attention to easily missed details.  The camera as a tool for studies allows a fast documentation of everyday discoveries in faded hand painted signs, decay, grit, paint splatters and architecture.  A simple walk through your hometown with mind-full eyes takes ‘the ordinary event, leads to the beauty and understanding of the world’.2 This process of documenting and copying things is used in conjunction with my ideas on constructing a painting, which can take the everyday thing and create a form of visual anthropology.  I aim to not define exactly my everyday but to show a glimpse; ‘the everyday in art is in itself an insight rather than necessarily a representation’. 3


Time and the body all change what is perceived day to day from different perspectives, and on the same street the same fragments can either be taken note of, or missed, depending on how the body has moved around the environment in that instance.  This group of paintings explores the viewer's interaction with the work much in the same way they would experience the outside world.  The use of found colours, textures and intuitive painting explores a sensuality that people experience before they even know what they are dealing with.



The body of work is on wood panels taken from my studio wall. The wall has layers of paint from commercial work, paintings and also visiting artists who have made their mark – these form a textural history which I have built upon.  The Barber, 2017 references the environmental factors of buffing and mark making and the history within these layers.  If you imagine this wall to be outdoors, the distorted history behind the thinly veiled red can be seen.  Black infantile mark making shows the birth of a new generation or the ‘wall’s’ history, or beginning.  There is also the history of the Barbershop, the history of myself being in that place on my daily routine and the history and tradition of signwriting interwoven.  Jasmine, 2017 explores the same notions, however through a different visual order.  Here some of the wall is left clear with a hard edge against the more opaque painted surface, a clear distinction is seen between the history and what is hidden.  With the history of a surface also comes the idea of documenting that history. Anthropod, 2017 shows layers of the walls history pushing forward and back, the alphabet can be seen referencing the beginnings of our ability to document.  The study of the everyday, the body moving through space and time, is what makes these paintings a form of visual anthropology.







  1. Editor, Stephen Johnstone 2008. Everyday, Documents of Contemporary Art. The MIT Press, Cambridge, page 54-56, Allen Ruppersberg - 50 helpful hints on the art of the everyday.’

  2. Editor, Stephen Johnstone 2008. Everyday, Documents of Contemporary Art. The MIT Press, Cambridge, page 54-56, Allen Ruppersberg - 50 helpful hints on the art of the everyday.’

  3. Editor, Stephen Johnstone 2008. Everyday, Documents of Contemporary Art. The MIT Press, Cambridge, page 76, David A. Ross & Nicholas Serota - The everyday: a conversation.