This month’s works on paper series features three new limited hand-colored editions from the California-based painter Thomas Campbell (born 1976, US) made on the occasion of his current solo exhibition Spirits in Spacesuits at Eighteen.
Campbell’s work draws on a wide-range of mediums and strategies. As gallery director Jesper Elg notes, “his exuberant compositions combine scribbles and scriptures, taking slogans and anecdotes from his unique vocabulary and juxtaposing them with a profound look into human nature.” Campbell is a master in the world of his own language. Influenced by eclectic sources and movements such as the 60s Arte Povera, 90s grunge, and longstanding traditions of American craft, Campbell’s homegrown folksy DIY-aesthetic, at once elegant and expressive, as also mythologized by curator Aaron Rose in the 2008-film Beautiful Losers, escapes any formal models of categorization.
In the new print series, all hand-made in his home – a cabin-style house surrounded by a fairy ring of redwood trees in Bonny Doon, a minimally populated area nestled in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California, US – Campbell delves into a surreal realm built on different manual print techniques, folds, stitching, scribbles, gestural applications of acrylic, watercolor and spray paint. Isolating certain elements of the silk-screened images, in unique colorways, each print draws attention to the language and garments of the genderless poly-eyed humanoids, or “spirits in spacesuits” (cf. the title of the exhibition), often populating Campbell’s works. Yet somehow alienated from their original form, Campbell’s works exist as paranormal phenomena – in some sort of displacement of our situated positions, here and now, to a distant future of whatever is left after the pandemic disorder. As Campbell notes, “my works are exploring the ideas of the infinite. Imagining existence beyond this planet and our dimensional trappings.”
Campbell reuses and transforms materials from other cultural spheres such as archival manila folders or the Japanese stamps used in the series Rhoda. Blended with personal visual memories, it makes for an eclectic bricolage, from which nomadic symbols emerge and subvert dichotomies between “high” and “low”, original and copy, between what’s printed and painted. Campbell’s work is an eloquent transmutation, a sifting of perceptual views, carrying a wealth of affective or alluding resonances, into the painted form.