Watercolor on paper
60 x 40 inches
152.4 x 101.6 cm
Things Get Better
OHWOW Gallery is pleased to announce Scott Campbell’s solo exhibition, titled Things Get Better. Campbell’s new work consists of a series of ink wash paintings on paper that realistically illustrate novel objects and improvised tools. The subject matter of these detailed watercolors explore notions of invention and reinvention, or more accurately, human ingenuity.
While working on a project in Mexico City several years ago, which involved documenting aspects of prison tattoo culture, Campbell discovered an array of devices, imaginatively pieced together by inmates. Using a motley combination of items, they had recreated specific mechanisms by appropriating materials that were readily accessible, such as electric razors, guitar strings, and toothbrushes. These reinventions replaced equipment otherwise unavailable to them, exemplifying perseverance over restrictions.
Motivated by this experience – how limitations can engender creative thinking – Campbell conceived his own adaptations of similar mark-making instruments, depicted in this series of paintings. Rather than fabricating “tools” for practical use, he arranged them as studies, imaging ingenuity as an art form. In doing so, this work synthesizes artistic method and invention, visually conveying the science of problem solving as an aesthetic process. Through his plain use of black ink, along with a definitively applied brush technique, Campbell creates work that accurately reproduces his subjects, while also capturing its true essence. This laborious and unforgiving artistic practice requires focus – once a stroke is painted, it cannot not be changed, hidden, or erased.
Things Get Better reiterates the optimism of ingenuity and the idea that parameters can inspire creative solutions. In turn, Campbell applies a limit to his own practice, finding a freedom in boundaries. As the artist explains: “The openness of everything can be paralyzing, and it is human nature to look for walls and barriers to push against. Walls help us to know where we are, and what we have; once recognized, we can then begin our work of flourishing and creating within them.”