A New Acquisition, Artwork by Steven Campbell

Fake Ophelia, by Steven Campbell, 1991
Fake Ophelia, by Steven Campbell, 1991

The Archives and Collections are pleased to introduce one of our most recent acquisitions, an artwork by renowned artist Steven Campbell.

Fake Ophelia, a large collage on canvas was created in 1991. It was to form part of an exhibition called Pinocchio’s Present at The Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh just a few years later in 1993. It is 1735 x 1195 mm and consists of paint, textiles, string, wallpaper and paper cut work.

The work has been gifted to The Glasgow School of Art by Scottish filmmaker Bill Forsyth, known widely for his films Gregory’s Girl (1981), Local Hero (1983), and Comfort and Joy (1984), and Moira Wylie, and we wish to thank them for their generous donation. Our Head of Learning Resources at the GSA, Alison Stevenson says,

“We are grateful to Bill and Moira for this generous donation to the GSA’s Archives and Collections. Steven was an incredibly talented artist whose life was cut tragically short. We are delighted to be able to add Fake Ophelia to our rich collection of works by GSA graduates.”

The work was made at a particularly challenging period in the artist’s life having lost his brother and being sued for breach of contract by his New York ex-dealers on the same day. In an interview in 1993 with the former art critic of the Glasgow Herald, Clare Henry, whose papers are held in the GSA Archives & Collections, the painter said:

‘ “The misery was incredible.” Sticking string till his fingers bled was therapy, ”I didn’t have to think about anything.” Campbell’s kitchen range bears witness to these months. Two multi-coloured metal rods over the Aga are forever stained by the string which he boiled up in pans of dye and hung over to dry. These threads, diligently aligned, create the flesh-toned torsos of Fake Ophelia…’

Steven Campbell, who was born in 1953, studied Drawing & Painting at The Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1982 with a Fulbright Scholarship which he used to travel to New York. His first solo show was held at the Barbara Toll Gallery in 1983, and he quickly became well-known. Campbell returned to live in Glasgow in 1986, and emerged as the leading figure of a group of Scottish figurative painters known collectively as ‘The New Glasgow Boys’. The group consisted of Campbell alongside fellow GSA alumni Ken Currie, Peter Howson and Adrian Wiszniewski.

Campbell’s distinctive painting style often has a surreal and mysterious quality, alongside a strong literary element and recurring motifs such as skulls, birds, and the paisley pattern. His work is held in collections such as the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland, and his last major exhibition was ‘The Caravan Club’ in 2002, at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh. He died on 15 August 2007. 

Fake Ophelia has been hung in the GSA Library where current students from across all disciplines will be able to see and enjoy it, so come and take a look!