Calum Colvin RSA: Constructed Worlds

11 January - 2 February 2020

Calum Colvin RSA is an internationally-renowned Scottish artist who has challenged the boundaries of the photographic medium. In recognition of this achievement Tom Normand HRSA has completed a study of Colvin’s photography titled The Constructed Worlds of Calum Colvin: Symbol, Allegory, Myth. This book is a thematic exploration of Colvin’s photography; recognising its complexity, intrigue, erudition and humour.

In appreciation of this occasion the Royal Scottish Academy is pleased to present this exhibition of Calum Colvin’s art. In part a selected retrospective, in part a review of highlights from his oeuvre, this exhibition offers a survey of some of the finest photographs that Colvin has produced. These works reflect upon the conditions of culture in Scotland, the tangled character of contemporary society, and the potential catastrophe that surrounds human ambitions.


Critically-acclaimed for his complex constructed photographs, Colvin is celebrated for his highly innovative approach to subjects relating to art history, popular culture, literature and mythology. His constructed photographic artworks begin as large-scale studio ‘stage-sets’: tableaux of everyday objects, furniture and bric-a-brac carefully posed and theatrically lit. Viewed from the fixed-point perspective of a large-format camera, painted trompe-l’oeil elements are introduced, integrating object and subject in a complex mise en scène. These are finally photographed on film, digitised and printed onto paper or canvas. These visual illusions and allegories are intended to draw the viewer into a creative dialogue as the images are interpreted, touching on contemporary concerns relating to society, the environment and aspects of national identity.

Calum Colvin was born in Glasgow in 1961 and graduated from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1985. He was a winner of one of the first Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Awards from which he created the acclaimed exhibition for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Ossian, Fragments of Ancient Poetry, in 2001. In the same year Colvin was awarded an OBE and, in 2004, he was elected a Member of the Royal Scottish Academy. He is Professor of Fine Art Photography and Associate Dean at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. His works have been widely exhibited in venues as diverse as Orkney, Los Angeles and Ecuador, and are represented in numerous important collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine