Lo Brutto Stahl is pleased to share Simon Callery's solo exhibition ‘Contact Painting’, on view at Centro de Arte, Caja de Burgos, Spain, from June 9 to September 24, 2023.
The show brings together all the paintings made in response to the archaeological excavations at Moel y Gaer, Bodfari, Denbighshire, North Wales, 2013 – 2018 and two from excavations at Nesscliffe Hill, Shropshire 2019 – 2022.
“A physical record of the landscape, rather than a representation of it” Simon Callery (London, 1960) tells us about his work. At the limit of painting, action and sculptural installation, his work pursues restful emotional perception, far from the speed with which any cultural product (and any process) is consumed today. In 2003 he began working with archaeologists specialising in the Bronze and Iron Age at the University of Oxford. In excavations such as Segbury Camp and Alfred´s Castle he poured fine plaster over a ditch in the farmlands adjacent to the hillfort. Once dry, the plaster had captured the entire chalk surface of the place, not just its negative imprint. The complete work was titled “Trench 10.” Standing upright, it became a huge white painting weighing three tons that made the viewer doubt its archaeological authenticity, its validity as a testimony, and even its artistic virtue.
The realization that the earth revealed a life beyond its immediate surface, and the relationship that the artist was able to transfer to the field of painting, clearly emerged during his participation in the excavation seasons in Moel y Gaer between 2013 and 2018, an Iron Age hill fort near Bodfari, in Wales. This is the first time that all the works carried out at that site during the subsequent excavations have been shown together. The trench of the excavation operates, according to Callery, like the classic devices used to capture the landscape, as the “veil” of Alberti that allows to reduce the scale of what is contemplated and represent it on a canvas. Callery uses it for the same purpose, but accepts that the spatial depth of the sample will cause a vacuum, both in what is transposed to the painting and when leaving the ground after removing the canvas.
The spatial depth, real, of the painting, arising from direct experience with the archaeological site, generates an expressive work that is not possible to contain in the margins of the traditional frame. The painting thus becomes the structure of the artwork. The canvases cut in the different seasons were recovered by Callery in the studio, where he sewed them, patched them and set them up to strip them of any conventional memory linked to naturalistic representation.