Exhibition of the Week: Colin McCallum ‘Metropolis’ at Lever Gallery

Born in Glasgow, McCallum studied and worked in London, before moving to Barcelona where he lived and worked for over a decade. For METROPOLIS, the majority of large and medium paintings on show have been created since his return to East London in 2016. McCallum’s use of multi-layered abstraction and vivid colour constitute a staggeringly vibrant assault on the senses.

The artist is acutely tuned into the textures, surfaces, colours, lights and structures of the metropolitan environment. This latest collection of paintings is more than an evocation of the urban landscape; it is a visceral, emotional response to the visual overload of contemporary city life and our ‘always on’ digital technology. Many of these works are influenced by his local neighbourhood of Canary Wharf, where vast modern corporate and residential skyscrapers, illuminated by neon, loom against a diminishing backdrop of post-industrial docklands.

Colin McCallum tells After Nyne

‘Having lived in Barcelona for 14 years and returning to London 2 years ago, this is my first solo exhibition in London for 6 years. I have been active in participating in national and international art fairs and events but this is a great opportunity to see a curated display of my medium and large scale works that many art fairs don’t have space for. 

Metropolis – the title of the show is a reference to the inspiration of living in an urban city – displays recent and up to date paintings within an amazing architecturally designed space, industrial/ warehouse style and set in a very urban East London location, perfect for my work. The space allows my often intense paintings to breath and resonate with each other. Because I work in series it’s not always possible to see the connections when displayed with other artists or within the limited space of an art fair stand.’ 

McCallum creates his work in series that he develops over time, returning to motifs and colours repeatedly, whilst making subtle or radical changes until a new series comes to life. He is energised by new ideas and mediums in patterns that are repeated and broken, allowing his subject matter to dictate the piece’s style and delivery. He utilises a range of media – from spray paint and stencils, as in his Prism collection, to drawing with poured paint, as he does in his Template series. In Interference, McCallum painstakingly layers horizontal lines of paint, creating colour texture that appears to change according to the light.

In the Metropolis exhibition we see how McCallum is still developing his techniques and how each series of works continues to evolve. Pattern plays a large role in his work, with regular motifs of dots and lines. He has been inspired by other artists who incorporate pattern and repetition such as 20th Century Op-artists like Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, Bauhaus artist and textile designer Anni Albers as well as contemporary artists Peter Halley, Yayoi Kusama, Beatriz Milhazes and Sarah Morris.

The final word is the artist’s

‘This exhibition is a special opportunity to see large scale works in a superb East London/ City space – an area known for craft, design and architectural practices. The colour of my work against the white walls and industrial style space really vibrate and will invite the viewer inside.’

Colin McCallum


25th October to 10th November

Lever Gallery

153-157 Goswell Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 7HD