Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Sean Patrick Campbell.
Lives in Glasgow, Scotland
How do you describe your own art practice?
I am an artist predominantly working with analogue photographic processes, although this sometimes spills out into writing, sculpture, sound and moving image. Why photography? A photograph acts as a witness, a representation and a trace, but the photograph is the thing-in-itself, not the thing it is of. That is such a fascinating tension to me, because the potential for a photograph to hide and reveal then becomes decoupled from what the object or subject is. I make a lot of photographs, so I hope my work cumulatively builds a universe, a grammar of absence & loss. This is a starting point to interrogate the symbioses between landscape and mythologies – personal, cultural, political.
Which question or theme is central in your work?
I think at the heart of my practice is an idea of revelation – what veil is lifted by photography, and what is hidden. I mostly photograph quite mundane objects and landscapes, as I tend to shy away from the most-obviously sublime, but I’m always thinking of the Philip K. Dick quote, ‘the symbols of the divine show up in our world initially at the trash stratum’ – that’s to say, if there’s no divinity in the ordinary there’s no divinity anywhere.
I’ve never been a religious person, and in fact spent the majority of my teens and 20s as an embarrassingly angry atheist. But to me, photography has an inherently spiritual, intangible quality, which is directly related to the materiality of the medium but also often at odds with it. There is a transcendence at play in photography that I find so compelling it’s almost maddening.
Since I started immersing myself in my practice I can confidently say that I am no longer an atheist. I could not confidently say what that means though.
What was your first experience with art?
My mum gave me a book when I was little called ‘The Encyclopedia of Things that Never Were’, this big coffee table book of myths and legends from all over the world, accompanied by beautiful drawings and paintings of these terrifying, weird creatures. I must have been about 4 years old, and my earliest memory of engaging with art is poring over the book, awestruck, inside a blanket fort, both at the images and these descriptions of magic. That sense of discovery and wonder is something I think I’m still looking for in art, still.
What is your greatest source of inspiration?
Probably the inherent weirdness of living through the times in which we live. The strange gaps in existence, in the day-to-day. The odd mundanity of the cracks in a rock.
What do you need in order to create your work?
A camera – any camera.
What work or artist has most recently surprised you?
The film Aniara by Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja most recently completely knocked me sideways. I continue to be astonished by David Wojnarowicz, particularly his writing. Evidence by Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan reveals more and hides more every time I look at it. And Moyra Davey’s work too.