Cutting Environments and Creating Emotions with Callum Russell / Style No Chaser

British artist Callum Russell specializes in causing double takes – you have to look and look again.  His ‘papercut’ form of art is steeped in genuinely grand history and his meticulous creations strongly petition your senses to pay close attention.  Callum is one of those artists that Style.No.Chaser absolutely loves to find and exalt.  His great work aside, Callum’s humility as an artist fully shows why we staunchly believe the world would be a far better place if all humans embraced their inner artist.  Callum is captivated by the ability of art to connect people with their environment and their emotions in a fluid and seamless way.  His papercut style of art highlights his infatuation because it incorporates light, shadows, space and movement to display environments/objects/people that in turn create emotions in spectators.

See the interview with Callum below.

“I love the physical aspect of the material, and the reductive violent process of starting with a single …”

Please tell us a little about yourself – your childhood, siblings, where you grew up, what you liked as a child, strange thoughts as a child/now, unique attributes, where you live now, etc.?

I was born in London, and have lived here for most of my life. I lived in America for 2 years as a child, and spent 3 years in Cornwall at University. I have traveled quite a bit, and have family in Spain, Scotland, Australia and Japan. I think this mix of cultures and experiences has influenced the way I work in that I look for inspiration from, and have a huge appreciation for lots of very different types of art.

Self Portrait

What does your art mean to you?

Firstly my art is a personal and self-indulgent practice. I make art because it feels like something I need to do, and if I wasn’t doing it I wouldn’t be able to function properly. The urge to create, whether it be drawing/writing/making/whatever is something that not only feels right, but is a great way to investigate, process and understand the world around me. The goal of my art is not for people to like it and buy it – of course when this happens it’s an amazing feeling – but the primary purpose is that I’m creating something because I want or need to, not because it will be commercially viable.

Chinatown Bricks

How do you describe your form of art?

My art is primarily about the connection between people and the things they create. For the past few years I have been focused on looking at the relationship between man and the urban environment. I am interested in aspects of Psychogeography, which Guy Debord describes as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” 

This is represented not only by the images themselves or consisting of people engaging with their environments, but also by the form of the images themselves. The papercuts are created from one single sheet of black paper, and so literally connect the wandering figures with the constructions they are consumed by.

Apple Store Shadow

The papercut nature of your art is super unique – what tools do you use for the creation of your work and how did you create your personal style?

I love the physical aspect of the material, and the reductive violent process of starting with a single sheet of paper and using a medical scalpel to cut away. What starts as a plain sheet of paper becomes a delicate and carefully constructed image. Papercuts exist historically and culturally in many different cultures all over the world. From the German Scherenschnitte, to the Mexican papel-picado folk art, to the red papercuts of the Chinese (who’s papercutting history can be traced back to around 3 BC!)  I love the fact that I’m taking part in an ancient and varied tradition. While my particular style owes a lot to the Japanese kiri-e papercuts, I am very influenced by European woodcuts, film noir, and stained glass windows.

Waterloo

When was your last art epiphany and what was it about? 

I regularly change my mind about art and creativity. I used to be very against contemporary art, and performance art, but over the last year or so I have completely changed my opinion. As my appreciation and acceptance broadens I have found some of the most interesting and provocative artworks and ideas have come from these genres. I think a large part of this was the acceptance that art doesn’t have to be something that looks nice on a white wall. Much more important is the idea behind the work – why the work is being created, not what the finished piece looks like. 

Tokyo 1 With Detail

What is the worst critique you have ever received about your work? What is the best compliment that you have received about your work?

Maybe I ignore the bad criticism, because I can’t think of anything in particular.  I think as an artist it is very important to listen to constructive criticism, and to surround yourself with people and artists whose opinions you trust, and whose work you respect – even though it may be very different from yours. Probably the worst criticism comes from myself, in the form of pushing my work and making sure it doesn’t become boring and repetitive. It is very important to develop an analytical and critical eye, to be able to step back from a work and examine it objectively to see if it does or doesn’t work. Regarding compliments, when people first look at my images it isn’t necessarily obvious that they’re papercuts, often people assume it’s a screenprint or a woodcut. So its nice to get compliments about the technical and skill aspect of the work when people discover that they have been intricately and painstakingly hand cut out of paper.

Olympic Stadium

Which artist/s do you look up to the most?  In your view, what defines a great artist?

A great artist is dedicated to their work, and has a singular and unique voice. I am a big fan of cinema, and love David Lynch – his aesthetic, storytelling, and the way he creates these enveloping worlds that suck you right in.  I think Grayson Perry is one of the best contemporary artists working today. His work is interesting and varied, and his emphasis on the history of craft and its relationship to society and culture is something I greatly respect. His ‘Rieth Lectures’ on the contemporary art world, and his various documentaries on class are all superb.

Tokyo 5

There are quite a few art snobs out there – what is your view on the appreciation and consumption of art by all?

I think art is amazing and is appreciated by all in one form or another. Often galleries can be quite stuffy, off-putting or pretentious, which can turn people off. I can see how certain types of work can be challenging or difficult to understand, but I think that’s a good thing. As long as you approach art with an open mind it can be hugely rewarding. Also art is everywhere – films, fashion, music, writing – I can’t imagine a life without any of these things. 

St. Martins

Since Style.No.Chaser is a men’s lifestyle magazine, what attributes/items/clothing /etc. do you think define a man?

In terms of attributes – respect, intelligence and honesty. Varied interests, the perfection of a skill, and the ability to like what you like unashamedly. 

In terms of fashion – for me style is simple and uncomplicated. Jeans and a t-shirt is the ultimate cool – James Dean, Marlon Brando. Throw in some Keith Richards attitude and you’re there. I am also obsessed with bandannas, and the many stylistic and functional guises they have taken over the years.

Tokyo 3

What is your personal life philosophy?

Work hard, create, do what you love.

Tate Britain

Who dead or alive, celebrity or not, artist or not, would you like to go on a two week road trip with and why?

Keith Richards. Why? Because he’s Keith Richards.

Tokyo 4

How can people learn more about your current and upcoming works?

My portfolio website for finished works and contact details can be found here.

My blog for development and news about upcoming exhibitions is here

Also follow me on Twitter .

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