The interplay between the additive and subtractive process, making and unmaking, presence and absence, constitutes the essence of the oeuvre developed by Callum Innes.

Born in Edinburgh in 1962, he studied drawing and painting at Gray's School of Art from 1980 to 1984 and then completed a post-graduate degree at Edinburgh College of Art, in 1985. 

He began exhibiting in the mid-to-late 1980's and in 1992 had two major exhibitions in public galleries, at the ICA, London and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Since then he has emerged as one of the most significant abstract painters of his generation, achieving widespread recognition through major solo and group shows worldwide.

Innes makes work in a number of different ways, all of which are gradually evolving. The shifts that appear from one series to the next are rarely dramatic, but each new painting builds on those that have gone before in a subtle but constant progression. His characteristic form of coolly atmospheric abstraction has aptly been described as 'unpainting', given that key compositional elements are generally produced, not by the application of paint, but through its removal by washes of turpentine. Each finished painting thus suggests a freezing in time of the otherwise momentary arrest of an ongoing process.

Innes has likened this halting of time to the photographic process, stating: ‘With my work in abstraction, I think about it as photography, as photography freezes moments in time, so I work with time more than anything else... There is a moment in time and space when a painting stops in much the same way that a camera’s shutter closes on a moment in time. This is not a static thing.’

Innes was short-listed for the Turner and Jerwood Prizes in 1995, won the prestigious NatWest Prize for Painting in 1998, and in 2002 was awarded the Jerwood Prize for Painting. He has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and his work is held in public collections worldwide including the Guggenheim, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fort Worth Museum, Texas; TATE, London, and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

In 2016 the exhibition I’ll Close My Eyes, at De Pont Museum, Tilburg, and the accompanying monograph of the same title, published by Hatje Cantz, offered a broad survey of Innes’ practice, exhibiting works on canvas, oilpaper, watercolours and painting directly onto the wall surface, from the late 1980s until the present. Previously the major solo exhibition, From Memory, was shown at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in 2007, touring to Modern Art Oxford, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. 

 

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Selected texts


Spots of Time, by Caomhín Mac Giolla Léith, 1998  (read text...)

Callum Innes, by Eric de Chassey, 1996  (read text...) 

Once Removed, by Michael Auping, 1996  (read text...)

A poet of common sense, by Mel Gooding, 1992  (read text...)