Calum Colvin: Natural Magic

The Finlay Room, RSA Lower Galleries

Free entry


The exhibition titled Natural Magic (after 'Letters on Natural Magic Addressed to Sir Walter Scott 1832' by Sir David Brewster) will consist of a series of photographic artworks, which explore areas of commonality between visual science and visual art, and the use of optical devices in the development of these disciplines. The artworks will be presented as a series of wall-based and free-standing stereoscopic images which reflect on visual and psychological phenomena, also referring to themes relating to art, science, photography and optics.


Stereoscopic works profoundly disrupt our sense of the concrete image. The recurring shift within the visual cortex between the flat plane and the (mentally) perceived stereoscopic image is related to my interest in visualized and interpreted space. The work will be displayed through a contemporary version of Wheatstones' Mirror Stereoscope. Using this as a visual conduit I will display a complex series of narrative images, which refer throughout in various ways to the ephemeral nature of their own existence. Various aspects of visual perception, science, philosophy, history, portraiture and national identity are considered in this process and the fusing of subject and object within art/photography investigated.

Portraits of David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Robert Burns and Lord Byron will be displayed alongside works exploring themes from art history, perspective, philosophy and visual science. The works will be an open-ended exploration of a time of great change in science, religion, nationality and our understanding of the visual world and exploring parallels between the invention and development of the stereoscopic viewer in 1838 and the development of the digital camera and (printed) digital image towards the end of the 20th century.


About Calum Colvin


Born in Glasgow in 1961, Calum Colvin was a winner of one of the first Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Awards. He was awarded an OBE in 2001 and is Professor of Fine Art Photography at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. Colvin's artworks have been widely exhibited in venues as diverse as Orkney, Los Angeles and Ecuador. A practitioner of both sculpture and photography, Colvin brings these disciplines together in his unique style of 'constructed photography': assembled tableaux of objects, which are then painted and photographed. His complex compositions are rich in association and spatial ambiguities. His work is held in numerous collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London as well as the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh and the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow.