Campbell Wallace captures the life of the party – curious arts

UAlberta visual fundamentals technician brings universal party narratives to the forefront by reinventing personal snapshots

Campbell Wallace’s (‘00 BFA) exhibition Party Paintings is a series of works painted from found images that capture ordinary people in extraordinary moments. The show, up at Latitude 53 until July 11, offers a glimpse into the strangely contradictory world of parties: the intimacy amid the social spectacle.

The Pagan (26x22"). Acrylic and oil on canvas. By Campbell Wallace.

The Pagan (26×22″). Acrylic and oil on canvas. By Campbell Wallace.

“I started with a bunch of discarded images. I found a bunch in a recycling bin one time; a studio partner found one in a dumpster. I’ve been using family albums too, my wife’s albums, and friends have given rolls of film from time to time,” explains Wallace of the inspirational source for Party Paintings

Ophelia, (48x32"). Acrylic and oil on canvas. By Campbell Wallace.

Ophelia, (48×32″). Acrylic and oil on canvas. By Campbell Wallace.

Because digital photographs are not discarded in the same way as prints, many of Wallace’s found images come from the Internet. Vintage shops have also been a gold mine of striking images for him to paint.

Wallace says it’s the expressions of the people that draw him in first and foremost, then the subject’s particular situations.

As Wallace paints, he looks for ways to reinvent or update the image, so that they are not so jarringly from a particular time or place and viewers can easily identify with the representations.

“There are a few images in the show that come from the 1980s, but as I painted them, I liked to look at them and decide what gives it staying power. I don’t want things to be too dated. I like working with pictures that are a bit older, just so you have a fresher view of what makes them work as an image. If it is too of-the-now, it can be hard to pinpoint what it is that strikes you about the image. Is it simply hip and happening? Or is the actual image itself compelling?”

Trappings (30x36"). Acrylic and oil on canvas. By Campbell Wallace.

Trappings (30×36″). Acrylic and oil on canvas. By Campbell Wallace.

Many viewers have responded to Party Paintings, telling Wallace they see themselves in the images. “People of all ages seem to identify with the paintings and say they’ve been there,” says Wallace.

U of A painting instructor Gillian Willans took her students to see the show at Latitude, and Wallace says one female student took him to task a little bit. “She thought it was interesting to her, in her way of thinking, that the women were more hard-partying, as opposed to the guys who were just hanging out. I didn’t totally agree with her, but we had a good discussion about it.”

As an Edmonton-based artist and technician for Visual Fundamentals in the U of A’s Department of Art & Design, Wallace says working with student artists provides constant creative stimulation.

“Most U of A technicians are showing their own artwork in Edmonton, so students see their work going out, and they see all kinds of possibilities. The same comes back to us. I’m constantly around the students, the instructors and all their creative activity.”

During the school year, Wallace can be found in the North Power Plant workshops, as well as in the basement studios in HUB Mall, helping students learn how to use the machines in the shop and guiding them through the completion of their assigned projects. He preps the studios, orders supplies and maintains equipment.

“It isn’t hard for me to get into the studio and get working. I’m always inspired by what’s happening around me. It is a two-way street. The students are pushing us to do better, and the technicians are supporting the students and instructors too.”

Campbell Wallace.

Campbell Wallace.

Exhibition title:Campbell Wallace – Party Paintings
Exhibition dates: Until July 11
Venue: In the ProjEx Room, Latitude 53 (10242 – 106 Street Edmonton)
Hours: Latitude 53 is open to the general public Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays 12–5 pm.

About Latitude 53

Founded in 1973 by a collective of Edmonton artists, Latitude 53 is a not-for-profit artist-run centre. Latitude 53 supports the research and development of new artistic practices and concepts, and encourages experimentation by artists through diverse programming.

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