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Steven Campbell collage, Fake Ophelia (1991) donated to The Glasgow School of Art
Steven Campbell, Fake Ophelia. Photo: Courtesy of The Glasgow School of Art Archives & Collections.

GLASGOW.- The BAFTA winning film director Bill Forsyth and his partner Moira Wylie have donated a work by the late Steven Campbell to The Glasgow School of Art, it was announced today 14 August 2015. Campbell, who died at the tragically young age of 54 in 2007, was the leading figure in the high profile group of GSA graduates known collectively as The New Glasgow Boys. A large collage on canvas, Fake Ophelia is formed of paint, textiles, string, wallpaper and paper cut work. It was made by Campbell in 1991 to form part of Pinocchio's Present an exhibition staged at The Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh in 1993. The work has been hung in the GSA library where current students from across all disciplines are able to see and enjoy it.

“We are grateful to Bill and Moira for this generous donation to the GSA’s Archives and Collections,” says Alison Stevenson, Head of Learning Resources at The Glasgow School of Art. “Steven was an incredibly talented artist whose life was cut tragically short. We are delighted to be able to add Fake Ophelia to our rich collection of works by GSA graduates.”

The work was made at a particularly challenging period in the artist’s life having lost his brother and being sued for breach of contract by his New York ex-dealers on the same day. In an interview in 1993 with the former art critic of the Glasgow Herald, Clare Henry, whose papers are held in the GSA Archives & Collections, the painter said: ‘ “The misery was incredible.” Sticking string till his fingers bled was therapy, ''I didn't have to think about anything.'' Campbell's kitchen range bears witness to these months. Two multi-coloured metal rods over the Aga are forever stained by the string which he boiled up in pans of dye and hung over to dry. These threads, diligently aligned, create the flesh-toned torsos of Fake Ophelia…’

Campbell, who was born in 1953, came to the GSA as a mature student studying Drawing & Painting. He graduated in 1982 with a Fulbright Scholarship which he used to travel to New York. His first solo show was held at the Barbara Toll Gallery the following year. Campbell returned to live in Glasgow in 1986, and emerged as the leading figure of the group of Scottish figurative painters known collectively as 'The New Glasgow Boys'. The group consisted of Campbell alongside fellow GSA alumni Ken Currie, Peter Howson and Adrian Wiszniewski.

Campbell's distinctive painting style often has a surreal and mysterious quality, as well as a strong literary element and recurring motifs such as skulls, birds, and the paisley pattern. His work is held in leading collections including The Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland. His last major exhibition was The Caravan Club, at the Talbot Rice Gallery in 2002.

Bill Forsyth is a BAFTA Awarding winning film maker known widely for his films including Gregory's Girl (1981 Comfort and Joy (1984) and Local Hero (1983), in which another celebrated GSA alumnus, Peter Capaldi, first came to public attention.

Campbell and Forsyth had met in the 1980s and become fishing buddies. In the 1990s, when approached to make a work of a “famous Scot,” for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Campbell selected to paint Forsyth saying, “Bill is the only famous person I know and a pal.” The portrait, Being Human, was unveiled in 1995. Named after Forsyth’s film which starred the late Robin Williams, it features Bill Forsyth with two of his children.

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