Dunfermline has strong links with Andrew Carnegie as it is where he was born, and it hosts his Birthplace Museum. At present the artist/photographer, Calum Colvin, is in the process of making a work of art that will become a photograph of Andrew Carnegie.
Calum Colvin is a Scottish artist (although when I asked him, he said he wasn’t sure if he was an artist or a photographer) who specialises in making three dimensional constructed pieces of work that when photographed become an image of the person. He has mainly (although not exclusively) worked with figures that have a relationship to Scotland or Celtic mythology. Recent work has included Burnsiana, which was an exhibition of work exhibited alongside poetry by Rab Wilson that was written in response to the artworks. He describes it as ‘‘Burnsiana’ is an exhibition and book born from an appreciation of the poetry, life and times of Scotland’s favourite son, Robert Burns. The works are a mixture of the mundane and the surreal, assemblages of everyday objects, which become a three-dimensional canvas for various painted scenarios’ (Colvin, 2019). The images can be seen on his website:
Other work also included a series looking at Scottish history and the symbolism of the Jacobite Risings and therefore the legacy this has had on Scottish identity. He collages items together to make the image. ‘His complex artistic manoeuvres and erudite references can be read as a metaphor for the construction, the ‘collaging’, of history itself, thereby asking us to be vigilant as to which version of history is presented to us, by whom and to whose gain.’ (Edinburgh Printmakers, 2009). The work is full of illusions, both visual and metaphorical and need more than a brief look to interpret.
Colvin is in the process of working on another piece, a head of Andrew Carnegie and I was lucky enough see this work in its final stages and catch a very brief conversation with him. The process is that he builds a large construction that, in this case, included books, postcards, Carnegie memorabilia, a desk which he has overpainted and some purely constructed pieces (the eyes) and then places them in such a way that when photographed from directly in front they merge to produce a single image that shows the man. Looked at from any other angle they become a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. In this case the work is being made in the Carnegie Birthplace Museum and has been watched by the visitors and Colvin’s research has been influenced by the easy availability of relevant information. When I saw it he was just putting the final touches to the model, altering some lines in the painting to make it more realistic. Colvin takes regular images of the model to guide his work. The final model will then be photographed, printed large scale and displayed within the museum and the model itself will be destroyed, although I was told that some pieces of it will be retained and shown alongside the photograph.
Colvin kindly allowed me to take some pictures of both the model and him working with it.
Working on it:
Colvin, C. (2019). Calum Colvin – Burnsiana. [online] Calumcolvin.com. Available at: http://www.calumcolvin.com/Burnsiana.html [Accessed 5 Dec. 2019].
Edinburgh Printmakers. (2009). Lochaber No More. [online] Available at: https://www.edinburghprintmakers.co.uk/calum_colvin [Accessed 5 Dec. 2019].