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Primitivist Neo-Expressionism

Niall Campbell Strachan was born in 1986 in Scottish Highlands, Britain. Working in mixed media such as spray paint, acrylics, and oil sticks on canvas, wood, or cardboard, Niall appropriates the language of street art or graffiti which makes his process often improvisational and high-energy. Nevertheless, his brushwork is highly restrained; he has the ability to control the technique of spray painting and large strokes of acrylic graffiti, as well as the relationship between bright colors. The language of street art or graffiti is characteristically made up of clear symbols and written words that are meant to represent or tell a message to all viewers. Thus, Niall’s works are, first of all, direct, such as the drawing of a huge arm with a short word on the canvas representing “the strong arm of the law”, which is also the title of the work; more than that, Niall also involves some elements of little “evils”, such as the weak arm in proportion to the large one, to challenge the set view expressed by the work’s title.

From 2019 onwards, the contents of Niall’s works have changed slightly but significantly. Before 2019, the contents of his works were more of human figures. In graffiti art, this recurring figure can often be recognized as the self-portrait of the artist. These self-portraits are an outward manifestation of Niall’s internal world, and the colors or behaviors of the figure could be understood as the artist’s mental state at the moment of creation. Since 2019, animals started to occupy the surface of Niall’s canvas, and these animals are often not natural animals but animals created by the artist through imagination or dreams. In the works, they do not appear alone but are often associated with a figure, sometimes fleeing together and sometimes talking to each other. In Niall’s self-description, he names this figure as a “useless human being”. A noteworthy change in works after 2019, especially in the more recent ones, is Niall’s treatment of the faces of the figure or animals. The faces and features gradually become less a clear, concrete outline and more a symbolic reminder, such as dots for eyes and nostrils, lines for the mouth, etc. This may metaphorically indicate that Niall is gradually transcending the direct influence of Jean-Michel Basquiat on his canvas.

Niall Campbell Strachan’s works have been collected widely by many private collectors, including the influential hip-hop artist Jay-Z. Niall’s works were included in the Freshpaint Art Fair in Tel Aviv in 2021; in the annual exhibitions at Royal Scottish Academy of Arts in 2018 and 2020 respectively; in the summer show at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, UK, in 2019; in the group show The Artist Who Makes Music/The Musician Who Makes Art, curated by Ross Sinclair at Queens Park Railway Club, Glasgow, UK, in 2018; the Lonely Arts Club group exhibition at Inverness Art Museum & Gallery, Scotland, in 2017, among many others.

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