Callum Innes, Detail: Untitled, 2009
Ever since the early fifteenth century, works of art made with oil paint on wooden panels, and latterly canvas, have assumed superiority over works on paper. But for many artists the immediacy of a mark made on paper offers a different and more direct means of expression that is every bit the equal of supposedly grander mediums. The possibilities of experiment that working on paper allows gives rise to an interconnectedness between mediums, so that lessons learnt move fliudly into new directions and across materials.
The work of Callum Innes provides a good example. His works in oil paint on canvas grace the walls of many museums worldwide, and have been the subject of numerous exhibitions and publications for over two decades, but for just as long he has made many, though much less frequently seen, exquisite and surprising series of works on paper.
An individiual series of Innes's watercolours were exhibited at the Kunsthaus Zurich in 1997 and another in New York and Basel in 2011, but the Ingeby Gallery's exhibition for Spring 2012 is the first ever survey to look in detail at this aspect of his work across a period of nearly 25 years
In all his work, Innes brings the potential of alchemy to abstract painting, applying and dissolving pigment, painting and un-painting, holding a line between control and chaos. In his works on paper these possibilities move effortlessly from one work to the next, building up a body of closely connected series.
At the heart of this exhibition are three new such series: a line of five pastels, treated like a kind of reverse sculpture, with fat sticks of chalky pigment ground back to dust and worked into thick pages of handmade paper; a sequence of 18 watercolours in which pairs of pigments are dissolved into each other, layer over layer, into veils of translucent light; and a series of ten tall, vertical sheets of waxed butcher's paper, carrying oil paint dissolved into skins of solid and liquid colour. This exhibition matches these major new series with selected works from the artist's archive, showing a rare consistency and continuity of ideas and application.