The rich and varied collection displayed in The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum is the focus of a major new exhibition by esteemed Scottish artist and Head of Contemporary Art Practice at the University of Dundee, Calum Colvin. The artist has positioned a number of his intriguing photographs within the gallery spaces, which comment upon, and relate to, selected permanent displays throughout the galleries. They are an ‘invasion’, an ‘intervention’ an ‘interruption’.
The starting process of Colvin’s work is a 3-D studio set. The set is adorned with every kind of everyday objects – from furniture, ironing boards, gramophones and wallpaper to books, prints and even monocycles. It is onto this assortment that the artist paints his subject – a scene, an episode, a portrait.
In the gallery spaces at The McManus, Calum Colvin has been reflecting upon Dundee and its place in Scottish, British and world culture, using elements relating to the landscape, history and the people from early times to the 20th Century. Each of his interventions offer a new and surprising perspective on the key works in the gallery space, with Colvin using symbolism and metaphor, allegory and analogy, replica and similitude. An office space can become the Swiss Alps, with Napoleon on his charger; a dishevelled bedroom morphs into a lake with a white swan (Mute Swan); a sitting room becomes a roost for pigeons or a set for Robbie Burns (The Common Runt); an artist’s studio a space inhabited by Bonnie Prince Charlie, but with fancy cakes replacing the colours on the artist’s palette (Portrait of Charles Edward Stuart (after Liotard)).
Added to this stunning mix are 3-D photographs, that challenge the nature of photography as a two-dimensional practice, and also complicated ‘Mirror Anamorphosis’ where the stretched photograph is laid flat in a circular form and viewed from an upright cylindrical mirror, in the centre of the piece, allowing the imagery to take shape as a subject.
The end result is magical – stunning works which are almost like a puzzle or riddle. Familiar objects become fascinating and mysterious. In each photograph, the more you look, the more you see.