I brought 50 metres of canvas, 20 kilos of pigment and two 5-kilo bags of rabbit skin size with me to La Boissiere. I wanted to make paintings whose colour and form derive from physical contact with the landscape.
I threw the canvasses down on the sloping ground outside the studio and soaked them with distemper (powder pigment and rabbit skin glue). The colour was a direct reference to the colour of the surrounding farmland. I left them out to dry and later to be blown about and softened by the wind and the rain. I submerged others in the Argentor and left them in the river water overnight.
Over the following days and weeks the canvasses began to show signs of dilution marks, wear and scratches in the pigment – evidence of their exposure to the weather and contact with the landscape. Conscious of what these marks suggested, I cut into the fabric more producing a number of irregular shaped and sized canvas elements.
I would drag them into the studio to the sewing machine to be stitched together (to form the exterior or interior faces of the paintings) and then back out again. By now, I could see the inter-dependency of the outside (landscape and canvas) and the inside (studio and construction) as one of the defining characteristic of the place.
Finding a way to get finished paintings onto the concrete block studio wall was a challenge. Without my London studio tools and specialist materials I felt lost. I had no choice but to turn this practical problem into a creative challenge. For days I scavenged the local Carrefour supermarket and fields around Champagne-Mouton for scraps of wood. I glued and screwed my finds together to make long horizontal structures (pinned to the wall with a single screw) designed to support the canvasses. I had been forced to rethink my established practice and to develop a new solution. What I take away with me from the residency is the growing awareness that contemporary painting must be flexible to survive. It must adapt to being made on the move and it must accommodate being shown in new environments.
Simon Callery (b 1960) while originally trained as a sculptor, has devoted himself to painting. His recent large-scale works are wall-mounted, three-dimensional compositions of raw canvas, torn and stitched, and saturated in rich, intense pigment. Often bearing the imprint of the surface on which they are made, the paintings register the subtle changes in their execution. A graduate of Cardiff College of Art, Callery has exhibited internationally in solo and group shows, including an upcoming show later this year at Casas Riegner in Bogotá.
Callery lives and works in London.