The Arts – David Caldwell

David Caldwell – Award Winning Portrait Artist

David Caldwell was born in Helensburgh on the 27th January 1977. After leaving school he studied painting at the Glasgow School of Art (1994-98) and further completed his education by attending in 2003 – 2005 The Princes’ Drawing School: The Drawing Year where he obtained an MA level diploma.

David, when interviewed by CASS art in 2013 stated: “As a child I was always drawing. If it was raining outside I would be content knowing that I could while away the hours lost in drawing. Through observing other people’s reactions to my work I realised that I clearly had a talent. Henceforth I always felt that it was my duty to nurture and share this talent. I have always been grateful that I have this clear direction in my life; that I enjoy what I do and that I feel like I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”

In common with many people, David found support and inspiration from one of his teachers: “My High school teacher has been a constant source of support and encouragement throughout my career. There are perhaps three or four other people who believe in my talent and in the value of art. It is good to know that they are out there. Also, artist guardians such as Cezanne, Van Gogh, Morandi, Bonnard, Matisse and others give me strength when it gets lonely.”

David’s work relies on the intensity of painting in the presence of the subject, often outdoors, having been awarded residencies in France, Spain and Italy. He himself has described his work as:”From life, Sensitive, Harmonious, Thoughtful and Slow burning.”

As an artist, David Caldwell has built a reputation nationally and internationally through his work within the genres of landscape and figuration. From the starting point of traditional painting, he has gone on to develop his own approaches; taking inspiration from his immediate surroundings, and working ‘from life’ to create work which preserves the energy of the process. He cites the work of Corot, Constable and Cezanne as influences on his painting.

He was drawn to portraits from the beginning of his artistic career: “I have always done portraits. It was there at the start for me. It is such a rich subject. People are amazing in their diversity. I could never tire of painting people really. I paint landscapes and still-lifes as much as portraits. All three genres have a different pace and feel, but are essentially related and indeed inform one another.”

Throughout his career, David has painted many self-portraits. In an interview given to the Ruth Borchard Collection, David reflected: ‘I have always done self-portraits. I try to do them periodically. They map my development both artistically and in years. If I ever brought them all together I suspect that they would make a fairly linear sequence covering the past twenty years or so. I will no doubt continue to do make self-portraits throughout my life. And of course you can always rely on yourself as a model if there is no one else around. Self-portraiture is a unique genre. The concentration and unselfconsciousness that solitude allows is not available in other portraiture. Alone with oneself one is allowed to look deeper and longer into one’s eyes; to scrutinise every aspect of the subject without the imposition of any brief. Also, one knows the subject inside out. There is a familiarity and history invested in the subject that separates it from any other.’

His exhibitions include his 2007 Alliance Francaise event in Glasgow, where he showed works made during his residencies in Languedoc-Roussillon, France, made in association with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Foundation, between 2002 and 2007. Works from France was the culmination of a focussed period of research undertaken by Caldwell, and showcased a selection of paintings and drawings inspired by the landscape, or “la terre”, around Collioure and Vieussan. The works shown were selected by the artist to reflect his experiences and reactions to the environment of this particular area of France.

He also exhibited in The Salon at the Liverpool Biennial Independents 2008, his previous group exhibitions include Hinterland, Thomas Williams Fine Art, London; Notes From The New City, C4RD Gallery, London; BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London, whilst also exhibiting regularly at the RGI and RSA annual exhibitions in Scotland.

David has been the recipient of several major awards, including: 2005 Drawing Year Prize, The Prince’s Drawing School, London, The 2003 BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London & The Ruth Davidson Memorial Award: Residency in the South of France. David spent 2004 as the artist in residence in Lewisham College, London.

In 2009, David was the recipient of the The Bulldog Bursary, an educational project worth £5,000. The award given by The Royal Society of Portrait Painters, provides the opportunity for a talented up and coming artist to be mentored by Members of the Society with the opportunity to exhibit work at the annual exhibition.

On receiving the award, David stated: ““The Bulldog Bursary will grant me precious time and space to focus solely on portraiture for a year. I intend to make bigger, more complex and ambitious portraits; attempting compositions that deal with the whole figure, or multiple figures, incorporating the surroundings. My aim is to make rigorous works ‘from life’, scrutinising the subject first-hand in an attempt to understand it and ultimately get to its essence. I am concerned with reconciling in one picture the complexities of how one sees. I want my work to suggest what it feels like to look and to be present – the space between the artist and sitter, and the individual energetic presence of the sitter.”

In 2010, David received The Founder’s Purchase Prize at The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition (adjudged by the late art critic Brian Sewell).

In 2013, David was resident artist at The Dimplex Dumfries House and in 2014 spent time in Pignano, Italy as the recipient of the Royal Drawing School’s Moritz-Heyman residency. During this year David’s work was exhibited at The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition, Mall Galleries, The ING Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries and the “Two Scottish Painters”, The Caledonian Club, Belgravia, London. He also displayed 77 small portraits at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the BP Portrait awards.

2015 saw David exhibit at The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition, Mall Galleries, the “Rear Window” exhibition 103 Allen Street, New York and “David Caldwell: Drawings and Paintings”. HSoA Gallery Hampstead.

David lives and works as an artist in Highgate, London.Further details can be found on his website.