David Campbell: Everything Matters

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10 - 23 March 2016 David Campbell’s new show is a series of works in oil on canvas and paper which attempt to say something about the human delusion of separateness that seems to set us apart from the world in a perpetual trap of subject and object.

A study of separateness and loss  
I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars.. - Dogen

‘Nothing matters’ was a turn of the 19th century cri de coeur of novelists and artists wishing, often violently, to de-clutter a Victorian ‘fetishism of things’, the ‘perpetual daydream’ of chasing ideas and concerns. The writer Leonard Woolf (1880-1969) relented, finally, at the end of his life and added to ‘nothing matters’ - ‘and everything matters.’ What to make of this statement in connection with this exhibition of ‘abstract’ paintings where there is nothing to see but colour, form and rhythm? All connections with the world of things have apparently been severed and the paintings’ ‘subjects’ are in one sense the painting themselves. David’s last show, Points of Reference, explored memory and place through what, on one level, could be seen as abstraction from sensations and memory.

The new show, Everything Matters, seems largely to throw off any descriptive or representative tendency. Strong reminders of the previous show remain, however, in some of the Disperean series. These are the exceptions, though. The new work is on a larger scale and seems to explode place into an almost cosmic universal in its use of form and space. It may be that cosmology in abstract art is cyclical and related to the philosophy of ‘escape’ from the limitations of the earth or, indeed, from the limitations of the subject-object relationship implied by the action of painting. Limitless space is, of course, also claustrophobic, terrifying even, and much of Campbell’s art seems to relate to an everything which is nothing but pure consciousness, the mind as ‘no other than the mountains and rivers’.  In that sense the landscape of consciousness is monumental because it expresses vastness and wholeness. The results are very unsettling, probably because there is a world of space and existence apparently depicted but which bears no grounding relationship to anything known or experienced.  Certainly, there is a surreal atmosphere in these paintings which has some of the queasiness associated with that movement because they run the risk of representing something. This form of abstraction is disorganised, chaotic. Much of this type of abstract art, of course, wants to be understood in terms of the physical world. It is not the pattern-making or geometrically arranged type of abstract art which we can more readily accept in its own right because we are used to experiencing pattern in nature and in human constructs. The one recognisable human construct in the work is the binary tendency – the two that is one and the ‘delusion of separateness’ as Campbell refers to it.