Although he has made conventional paintings and videotapes, Cameron is best known for a series of conceptual objects he calls "Thick Paintings," which he began in 1979 and has subsequently made his life's work.
Eric CameronEric Cameron, conceptual artist (b at Leicester, UK 1935). Cameron studied painting under Lawrence Gowing at Durham University in England and art history at the Courtauld Institute. He came to Canada in 1969, where he has taught at the University of Guelph, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and the University of Calgary. Cameron is recognized as one of the most important exponents in Canada of conceptual and process art (seeART, CONTEMPORARY TRENDS.) His work has been shown extensively in Canada, notably in the exhibition Divine Comedy organized jointly by the NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which travelled across Canada in 1990. In 2004 he received a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts.
Although he has made conventional paintings and videotapes, Cameron is best known for a series of conceptual objects he calls "Thick Paintings," which he began in 1979 and has subsequently made his life's work. The Thick Paintings consist of ordinary household objects that Cameron has since painted with many thousands of layers of gesso. Just as he selected the objects without any particular subjective or aesthetic criteria in mind, so he has adopted a rigorously impersonal approach to painting them, systematically brushing out each coat of gesso as thinly and regularly as possible. He has continued to work on each object, refusing to consider a painting finished until it is sold. While the artist himself originally anticipated that the result of this procedure would be a painting that gradually grew in size while maintaining the contours of the buried object, something quite different happened. With successive layers of gesso, the objects not only grew, but changed their shapes radically as a result of the chemical processes of drying and the mechanical processes of brushing on the paint.
Fascinated by the philosophical and aesthetic dimensions of this unpredictable and ultimately uncontrollable aspect of the work, Cameron has written several book-length essays to accompany successive exhibitions of the Thick Paintings, which he regards as an integral element of his ongoing project.
Steven Burns, "Laying it on Thin: Eric Cameron," Vanguard Vol 14 (Nov 1985); Eric Cameron, Divine Comedy Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada (1989).