Born in Glasgow in 1961, Calum Colvin was a winner of one of the first SAC Creative Scotland Awards and is a holder of a Royal Photographic Society Gold Medal. He was awarded an OBE in 2001 and is Professor of Fine Art Photography at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. Colvin’s artworks are internationally renowned and widely exhibited. A practitioner of painting, sculpture and photography, Colvin brings these disciplines together, utilizing the unique fixed-point perspective of the camera, in his unique style of ‘constructed photography': assembled tableaux of objects, which are then painted and photographed.
These elaborately constructed scenarios present a complex narrative tableau, rich in association and spatial ambiguities, which are exhibited as large-scale photographic prints. This process involves the creation of a three-dimensional stage set of an ordinary domestic scenario, upon which he paints across the various diverse elements within the set to make a unified image, viewed via a large format camera, which is realized through the process of photography. For more of his works visit www.calumcolvin.com.
Whom do you look up to?
Anyone who goes down fighting.
Are there any personalities that have contributed to your successful career path?
There are too many people to mention in that regard. Being an artist with any measure of success involves successfully interacting with a wide spectrum of people. I have always admired people who think differently – be they artists, writers, poets… postmen.
How did your art career start?
I went to Art School when I was seventeen, and I think it was always what I wanted to do although I had never met an artist, particularly a Scottish one! My art teacher had told me I wasn’t good enough to get into art college, (much to my indignation) so I had a point to prove. I wanted to be a painter at first, then I wanted to be a sculptor. Then I discovered photography. Then I put them all together and my career evolved from there.
How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
A stubborn, opinionated Scotsman with a highly developed sense of the ridiculous.
What was your favourite project and why?
It’s always the next one! I don’t dwell on the past much (not in a personal sense anyway). I suppose, if I had to I would pick my exhibition ‘Ossian, Fragments of Ancient Poetry’ from 2002 (Scottish National Portrait Gallery). On a personal level this project seemed to distill my interest in discarded and degraded histories. It awakened much of my political and social concerns, made me think more clearly about literature and poetry and its relationship to the visual, and seemed in some sense to act as a catalyst for much discussion in the wider world, public and academic.
How do you define creativity?
I don’t. There is the world and there is the imagination. ‘Creativity’ is just a collision of the two.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career as an artist?
It’s always money. It’s not the reason to create art but it’s difficult without it, no cash – no creativity.
Do you have a favourite quote that describes what you truly believe in?
“I need nothing
I have everything I need
I lie upon the coffin
a doughnut in my hand”
If you had one advice for someone seeking to live a creative life, what would you tell him?
Nothing worthwhile is easy.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
The importance of good posture. There is hardly an artist I know over 50 who doesn’t have a bad back.
Is there anything for which you would be ready to give up your passion for art?
No. I think every time you make a work of art, you have made a stand against the meaninglessness of the contemporary world…