Martin Campbell

Newry-born landscape artist Martin Campbell sees the extraordinary in the ordinary. Click Play Audio for online exhibition

Working in watercolours and Chinese ink, Martin Campbell’s art has an intensity of tonal depth not often seen in watercolour landscapes.

And like many great discoveries, the unusual medium came about by accident.

‘I was given a present of a traditional Chinese ink set by my brother and his wife over ten years ago when they went to China,’ Campbell explains. ‘It kind of sat there and I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I started using it in my paintings.’

Campbell is the exhibiting artist at the Gerard Dillon Gallery at Cultúrlann, in Belfast, showing paintings produced for The Authors & Artists Introduction Series (Volume 8), from Cavan-based publisher Windows Publications, and other works.

The Authors & Artists series features poetry written in English, Irish and Scots-Gaelic and images by a selected artist. It’s not surprising that Campbell was chosen for publication as his work is imbued with an intimacy that is like looking out a window to a world right outside.

Works such as 'The Cosmos, Chequer Hill’ and ‘Watching the Space Station, Armagh Road’ strike the viewer with their immediacy of place, an aspect of the artist’s work that is no doubt influenced by his use of memories and the familiar places of his childhood as subjects for his work.

‘Over the years my work has become a bit more personal, when I’ve used things that I’ve seen or childhood memories in my paintings. Most of my work is based on things that I’ve seen or experienced. A lot of it is based on the landscape in the area where I grew up, which is on the Armagh Road in Newry.'

Campbell’s traditional inks add a fullness to scenes carefully depicted in a minimal colour palette. His work reveals a preference for night scenes that best display his carefully blended washes of watercolour and deeply pigmented inks.

‘It’s both an urban and rural landscape, and there are aspects of it that I’ve always found very interesting but which would probably go unnoticed by most people in the area.

‘A lot has to do with seeing things around me which most people might miss – seeing something extraordinary in an ordinary environment.’

Campbell has previously exhibited in the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre in Newry and BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast. In 2008 he was instrumental in organising a major exhibition in Liverpool that was an official European Capital of Culture event. Together with fellow artists Derek Cully and Eamon Colman, Fís 2008 featured documentaries, talks and exhibitions on Irish art and culture.

The launch of the Martin Campbell exhibition on February 5 is a Late Night Art event and will feature a bilingual poetry reading. Check out the Culture Live! listing for more details. Enter our competition to win Authors & Artists books.

Hilary Copeland