In preparation for his upcoming debut show this July at Nelly Duff, we sat down with Edinburgh-based artist Callum Russell to pick his brain all about ‘Psychogeography’. We’ve always been enraptured by Russell’s shadowy and mysterious worlds, and this never before seen collection of unique original works is no exception.
ND: Have you always worked exclusively with paper cuts, or was it trying out other mediums that brought you to working in this way?
CR: I used to do a lot of collage and so always had collections of paper, magazines and old books. Then while experimenting with ways of using cut paper, and my interest in printmaking, the work naturally evolved into the single sheet paper cutting style that I use now.
ND: Your work revolves pretty much entirely around city life and scenes, have you always been a city dweller and is it a large part of your artistic identity?
CR: I was born in London and have spent time in many different cities across the world. I have always been interested in the unique characteristics and feelings of different cities, and how much architecture and the geography of the place can construct an identity.
I now live in Edinburgh and as such I have found London more interesting since moving away – whenever I come back I see it with fresh eyes and can experience it almost as an outsider.
ND:The Show is titled Psychogeography – could you explain to us what that means in relation to the works in the show?
CR: The term psychogeography was coined by French theorist Guy Debord in 1955 to investigate the ways that urban environments make us feel and behave. Debord was inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s concept of the Flaneur – an urban wanderer, somewhat detached from society, exploring and experiencing the city.
These artworks come from my wanderings through London. The goal being not a destination but rather an openness to noticing small moments within the metropolis. Through these images I’m attempting to not just depict these scenes but hopefully represent something of the strange psychological state that comes with being a city dweller.
The nature of these hand-cut paper works physically embody this connection between the city and its occupants – every element within the image is literally connected. Disparate features of the environment rely on each other for structure within the artwork, as in the city itself. The fragility of the paper, the delicate lines and the precise scalpel incisions enact this same balance of order and chaos that exists within a city like London.
ND: You are currently based in Edinburgh, but are originally from London – are you excited to have a solo show back in the capital?
CR: I’m very excited to have my first solo show in London, especially as a lot of the pieces in the show depict scenes not too far from Nelly Duff.
ND: You must have to get into a seriously focused headspace to cut your pieces so exactly, what’s your trick to get in that state of mind?
CR: I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts while papercutting, as music can be too distracting. The work can be very time consuming and repetitive, but because of this the more you do the more relaxing it becomes – it can be quite meditative, and I often find I lose track of time.
ND: How do you choose the places and scenes to turn into papercuts?
CR: I’m looking for visually interesting scenes – contrasting architecture styles, unusual patterns, strong shadows etc. I have to keep in mind that the initial photos I take have to become paper stencils, so not every photo works as a papercut – if there’s too much empty space, or ‘floating’ unconnected areas of detail the papercut wont physically work.
ND: What is it about your work that you think makes it work so well in print?
CR: The simplicity of the papercuts being one sheet and usually one colour hopefully makes prints that are bold and striking.
ND: Finally – if you could keep one artwork from the show which one would it be?
CR: Brick Lane, or TFS. Including the grafitti and sticker details in these pieces were a new challenge and I think they turned out great.
‘Psychogeography’ is on show at Nelly Duff from 5th – 11th July 2019, with a private view (all welcome!) from 6pm-8.30pm Thursday 4th July.
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