Simon Callery’s Full Circle Pit Paintings at...

Simon Callery’s Full Circle Pit Paintings at KAPPA-NöUN

The London painter Simon Callery (b. 1960) has been one of the most representative figures of the UK art scene since his debut, together with Simon English and Jenny Saville, in the exhibition Young British Artists III (Saatchi Gallery, 1994) which consecrated immediate notoriety at an international level. The focus of his research could be summarized with a statement he made on the occasion of his solo exhibition, entitled Art Now, at the Tate Britain in London (3 August – 10 October 1999): « My ambition is to stretch open the moment at which the paintings are sensed physically and visually, and delay the speed at which they are captured and devoured». From this intent (quite avant-garde in a period in which the inflation of instant images of the digital age was not yet foreseeable in its full extent) derives his conception of painting as a slowing down device, aimed at translating the experience of the gaze in an all-encompassing perceptive and physical involvement. Therefore, painting is not an illusion of depth or a representation on a flat surface, but a stratified structure that invites the viewer to trace the mental and technical process through which the artist created it in the material and chromatic conformation of the pictorial object.

Simon Callery, “Full Circle Pit Paintings”, installation view at KAPPA-NöUN, photo by Michele Lombardelli, courtesy KAPPA-NöUN, San Lazzaro di Savena (BO) e 1/9unosunove arte contemporanea, Roma

Simon Callery, from the beginning, has expanded the references of his visual language by turning towards the outside, initially the urban landscape he saw from the fifth floor apartment overlooking the Limehouse Basin where he lived in the early 90s, and then being fascinated by archaeological terminology and practice, starting from the photographic surveys of the Segsbury Camp excavation site on the Ridgeway, made with the photographer Andrew Watson in 1997 as part of a project promoted by the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Given his interest in evoking the synthesis of an environment through non-descriptive clues, what fascinates him about archaeological practice is the complementarity between the horizontal synchronic dimension and the vertical diachronic dimension, from whose intersection (also operated in his works) a multidirectional overview derives of the environmental information inherent in the painting materials. The artist has never abandoned archaeological methodology, which has confirmed itself over the years as a constant source of inspiration for the developments of his artistic discipline. In 2019, for example, as Abbey Fellow in Painting at the British School in Rome, he dedicated himself to mapping the constituent environmental components of the city, such as archaeological ruins, peripheral parks and the water of the Tiber river, which he placed directly in contact with large canvases soaked in pigment, subsequently cut and sewn in the studio.

Simon Callery, “Full Circle Pit Painting A”, 2024, canvas, oil, distemper, acrylic, pencil, aluminium, wood, height 64 x width 70 x depth 57.5 cm and “Full Circle Pit Painting B”, 2024, canvas, oil, distemper, acrylic, pencil, aluminium, wood, height 69 x width 64 x depth 62.5 cm, photo by Michele Lombardelli, courtesy KAPPA-NöUN, San Lazzaro di Savena (BO) e 1/9unosunove arte contemporanea, Roma

These works, which he defines as Contact Paintings, explore the environmental reality of which they are an expression in terms of spatial depth, chromatic synthesis and temporal stratification, restoring their specificities in a physically experienceable form. What the artist asks of us, therefore, is not to understand his paintings, but to perceive them in their gradual development, entrusting ourselves to the accuracy of our impressions despite the impossibility (systematically designed by him) of arriving at a definitive vision of the whole. The new series entitled Full Circle Pit Paintings, protagonist of the current exhibition of the same name at KAPPA-NöUN in San Lazzaro di Savena (BO), created in collaboration with the 1/9unosunove contemporary art gallery in Rome, is emblematic of this aspect. On the long wall opposite the entrance to the exhibition room, five sculptural paintings follow one another in a regular rhythm, each of which is constructed from the assembly of four circular wooden frames spaced apart and supported by partially painted wooden parallelepipeds. If the circular shape of these modules derives from the roundness of the excavation pits, which he considered intrinsically similar to his work, here the emphasis is on the materiality of the painting, no longer a “cast” of a pre-existing void as in the Contact Paintings, but a construction stratified over time in which the void takes on the value of spatial and temporal scanning, as well as of chromatic score. If in archaeologies the relationship between inside and outside is evoked by compositions of stitched and perforated forms, superimposed on each other in vertically parallel layers from which the elsewhere sporadically and mysteriously transpires, here the inside, usually closed to the gaze, is the fulcrum of the vision.

Simon Callery, “Full Circle Pit Painting C”, 2024, canvas, oil, distemper, acrylic, pencil, aluminium, wood, height 70 x width 80 x depth 70 cm and “Full Circle Pit Painting D”, 2024, canvas, oil, distemper, acrylic, pencil, aluminium, wood, height 69 x width 84 x depth 56 cm, courtesy KAPPA-NöUN, San Lazzaro di Savena (BO) e 1/9unosunove arte contemporanea, Roma

In each of the Full Circle Pit Paintings, in fact, the mutual positioning of the frames covered in aluminum or canvas, on which the paint begins to deposit as a delicate and intermittent layer, creates a plexus of converging shots that bring into focus calculated fragments of a potentially infinity of painting. There is nothing casual about this invitation to get lost in its meanders, as it is demonstrated by the calibrated gradualness of the tonal transitions between one component and another. The thickness of the wooden elements (recovered from the waste materials of the sets of the Royal Albert Hall in London, near which the artist has his studio) seems to put the process of painting in perspective as it unfolds, materializing every touch of color as if it were a sculptural presence. The internal-external relationship that in archaeologies manifested itself as a subliminal suggestion, here emerges in a preponderant way, giving a sensitive form to the beyond and inside of that painting that we are used to imagining as a two-dimensional entity. If, as we have said, the integrated perception of each composition can only be conjectured in a summary way by mentally merging the impressions to which each different angle of the structure gives access, the wall sequence of the five elements is, however, clearly legible from the front as a scale of whites progressively diversified and sideways as a breakthrough and as a core of the most tender heart of painting.


Simon Callery. Full Circle Pit Paintings
20/04 – 01/06/2024
Only by appointment at:
Via Imelde Lambertini 5, San Lazzaro di Savena (BO)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.