Art review: Steven Campbell, 1953-2007, Pittenweem

The late artist Steven Campbell, pictured in 2005. Picture: David Moir
The late artist Steven Campbell, pictured in 2005. Picture: David Moir
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EVERY year since 1982, the Pittenweem Arts Festival has shown work by a few invited artists alongside work by those who live in and around the town.

Steven Campbell, 1953-2007

Old Town Hall, Pittenweem

Star rating: * * * *

The list of previous invitees, ranging from John Bellany to John Byrne, reads like a Who’s Who of Scottish art, and this year the late Steven Campbell joined the list, with a retrospective show in the atmospheric, high-ceilinged exhibition space in the Old Town Hall.

In Generation, the nationwide survey of the best Scottish art of the last 25 years which is still ongoing, much has been made of Campbell’s role as a pivot point between the current crop of artists and the generation that came before.

Strolling around the dozens of other shows in Pittenweem this year, however, it was hard to find much that could be described as Campbell-esque.

Margaret L Smyth and William Middleton both produce figurative pictures that give the same sense of being a single still from a mysterious film, the plot of which we can only guess at, but by far the most obvious influence on artists in this corner of Fife is the landscape and seascape of Pittenweem itself, lovingly reproduced and reimagined in an infinite variety of styles.

Campbell’s widow, Carol, has donated several previously unseen works to this show, all small-scale ink sketches. Master and Apprentice is a gory, somewhat cartoonish take on the story of the Apprentice Pillar at Rosslyn Chapel, while Sharp is a witty portrait of what appears to be a former (Sharp-sponsored) Manchester United first team with televisions for heads.

The highlight, however, is the large-scale painting Red Train Going Left Right Up Down Tearing Apart, in which a passenger and his reflection doppelganger gaze out of a train window at a sea of more trains and more doppelgangers.

Nearby, in a display cabinet of Campbell-related memorabilia, is the Bram Stoker Medal, awarded for the “best imaginative work of the year” at Glasgow School of Art. Campbell won it in 1982; isn’t hard to see why.

• Run ended