Ingrid Calame paints the walls at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh

By Jenni Davidson | 16 August 2011
Abstract painting in pink, red, white, yellow and black on a pale blue background.
Lup Bup Zhir POW! (1994/1997). Enamel paint on aluminium© The Fruitmarket Gallery
Exhibition: Ingrid Calame, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, until 9 October 2011

Visitors to the Ingrid Calame exhibition at The Fruitmarket Gallery are immediately confronted with the giant floor to ceiling abstract of sspspss...UM biddle BOP. This huge work in aqua enamel on transparent Mylar flows down the wall and across the floor, forcing the viewer to step round it and consider it before entering the rest of the exhibition.

At first this appears to be just a random spattering of paint across a background, but in reality it is far from it. Calame carefully creates her works based on tracings of marks on the ground at various locations.

She particularly uses run-down and disused areas, such as the dried-out concrete banks on the L.A. River, the Perry Street Projects wading pool, the ArcelorMittal Steel Shipping Building and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery car park.

The tracings are made on architect’s Mylar, a kind of transparent polythene sheeting that resembles tracing paper, but is much stronger to withstand repeated use. The marks may be stains, spillages, graffiti or tyre marks. Some of the marks are recognisable in the finished artworks, but others become just part of a complex pattern of shapes.

The tracings themselves are not the art - rather, Calame uses them as a source material. Taking them back to her studio, she reassembles them in a different layout and layers the tracings over each to form a fusion picture.

These "constellation of tracings" are then used to make either finished drawings or paintings for display. Abstract, but retaining a link to real places, the finished works represent human industrial and social impact on the environment.

Calame’s drawings look like pastel-coloured maps or sea charts, and her paintings are bold dashes of enamel and oil on aluminium. Her choice of colours, says Calame, is tied to her memories. They may represent events and associations from her past.

The highlight of the exhibition is a giant new wall drawing, L.A. River at Clearwater Street 2006-8, created in situ at The Fruitmarket Gallery especially for this exhibition. Taking up one whole wall of the upper floor, it is both large scale and intricate. It is almost geometric and the effect is something like an enormous street map, but with parts of words visible among the lines.

Calame created it by pressing coloured pigment through tiny holes in a large drawing. As the pigment spread unevenly across the wall it formed a pattern subtly different from the original. This piece is unusual in that it is not a constellation, but an unreconstructed tracing taking direct from one place and repeated over and over.

This is the first solo exhibition of Calame's work in Scotland and represents a rare chance to see the full range of her work spanning the last 15 years.

More pictures from the exhibition:

Pale green paint in an abstract pattern on a transparent background of trace Mylar.
sspspss…UM biddle BOP, 1997, enamel paint on trace Mylar© The Fruitmarket Gallery
Close up of an abstract drawing in multi-coloured pencils.
Detail from #346 Drawing (Tracing from the Perry Street Projects Wading Pool, Buffalo, NY), 2011, coloured pencil on trace Mylar© The Fruitmarket Gallery
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