About the Artist
Colin Cameron was born into an army family in Cheltenham in 1964. He was educated at a school for spastics in High Wycombe and at polytechnics and universities in Brighton, Hull, Newcastle, Leicester and Edinburgh. He never studied art at any of these, though, except at school, where his art teacher once wrote on a report: ‘His attitude is so bad that it is not surprising that he has made so little progress’.
He was dismissed by his headmaster as ‘an idiosyncratic weirdo’ and ‘an esoteric nutcase’ and by the course leader of his social policy degree at Brighton as ‘too f***ing lazy’. His cock a snook attitude still shows through in his contemporary art work which has possibly, though, gained slightly in technical competence since he started using acrylics. His earliest acrylic work, produced between 2010 and 2015, involved a series of portraits of the victims of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. (“Everybody remembers Sutcliffe, but who remembers the ladies he killed?”)
Between 2016 and 2017 he worked on a series of absurd paintings of locally celebrated North East coast playwright and poet Peter Mortimer, reproducing a number of iconic portraits with Mortimer’s features replacing the originals. Mortimer said of these “If I had breasts as nice as those Colin paints me with, I’d never go out.” This series, known collectively as Mortraits, were exhibited at the Whitley Bay Film Festival and at The Exchange in North Shields, and came to the attention of the Newcastle Stuckist artist Paul Harvey. Harvey shared the images with Charles Thomson, one of the co-founders of the subversive art movement, and in autumn 2016 Thomson bestowed upon Cameron the right to title himself the Whitley Bay Stuckist.
Between 2018 and 2019 he worked on something else.
In October 2020 he painted his first nose picker. The pubs being closed at that time due to the Covid pandemic meant there was a lot of time for painting people picking their noses, something he took great enjoyment in. Working from old black and white photographs he found on sale for next to nothing at Tynemouth Flea Market, cast-off memories from recently dead people’s house clearances, he aimed in this new series to capture what Pirandello has described as the humour in the contradiction between people’s aspirations and their frailty. These paintings are about the futility of life, making the point that people living alienated conformist lives are often pleased with very little while thinking themselves rather splendid. In September 2021 two of his nose picking paintings – ‘Family, Picking Noses’ and ‘Mourners, Picking Noses’ were hung as part of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, having been nominated by Outside In, the Outsider Artists’ organisation, and chosen by Yinka Shonibare, the exhibition’s curator. They were both purchased on the first day of the exhibition.
‘Cameron’s work is like Lowry on acid.’
‘Art changes everything. Not necessarily for the better.’
‘There are two sides to Colin Cameron. A dark side and a black side.’
Dr. Ian Roper
September 2022 saw the launch of The Colin Cameron Gallery at Sweet Dreams, a sweet shop in Whitley Bay owned by Adrian Lee. The gallery involves quite possbly the largest collection in the world of prints, postcards, fridge magnets, mugs, button badges and tote bags for sale of images of people with their fingers up their olfactory organs.
Being crippled in a serious road accident at the age of nine in 1974 has given Cameron a disturbed but interesting perspective on the world, and his love of the dark, the seedy, the obnoxious and the marginal was developed early on. Having been patronised and condescended to by more non-disabled nitwits than he cares to remember has given him a sharp eye for the stupidity of life. In his work he explores ideas around normality and abnormality, the grotesque and the ideal, ambiguity and identity, anger, oppression, violence, resistance, conformity and the ridiculousness that conformity requires. The collective title of his nose picking paintings is ‘Most Normal People are Arses’.
He has worked in a range of roles in the disabled people’s movement, got his PhD in 2010, and is an assistant professor at Northumbria University. He lives in Whitley Bay in Northumberland with his wife Maggie.