Scottish painter, born and mainly active in Glasgow. After leaving school he worked for seven years as a maintenance engineer and steel fitter, and it was not until 1978, when he was 25, that he enrolled as a student at *Glasgow School of Art. Initially he was interested in *Performance art, but he turned to painting and soon made up for his late start, winning a Fulbright Scholarship that took him to New York in 1982, within months of graduating.
He remained in New York until 1986 and as early as 1983 had two one-man shows, at Barbara Toll Fine Arts and the John Weber Gallery. These were well received and his success was an inspiration for younger Scottish artists: after his return to Scotland in 1986, Campbell became the focal point of a flourishing group of figurative painters in Glasgow (see Glasgow School), and ‘his achievement has done much to shape the evolution of Scottish painting in recent years’ (Duncan Macmillan). The painter himself went further: he was reported as saying, ‘I'm the only one doing Scottish Painting.’ Campbell's paintings—often very large in size—typically show bulky figures of offbeat or outlandish appearance placed in strange settings, and he had a taste for unconventional titles (The Building Accuses the Architect of Bad Design, 1984, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne). ‘His tweed-clad, mainly male cast of characters roam the countryside and become embroiled in bizarre, nonsensical occurrences. Birds, beasts, and men compete in a hostile garden environment, performing strange rituals which defy nature's logic’ (catalogue of the exhibition ‘Scottish Art Since 1900’, NG, Edinburgh, 1989). Further Reading S. N. Moffat, obituary, The Guardian (2 September 2007)
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)