The artist pioneering photorealism perfection is exhibiting in London…

The artist pioneering painterly perfection of photorealism since his time at Goldsmiths, Callum Eaton, exhibits “LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH” at the London based gallery, Carl Kostyál.

After an inebriated attendee of an early open studio session attempted to interact with a two-dimensional depiction of a conventional cash machine, Eaton was inspired by the renowned Grecian tale of illusionary artworks, Zeuxis and Parrhasius. The tale tells the story of the artist creating still-life works so realistically, that birds would swoop down and try to peck at depicted foods. Triggering the question, perhaps the desire of people to interact with Eaton’s work, is almost complimentary to the realism of his craft?

Eaton graces London once again to debut his expanded selection of the often overlooked street furniture and urban architecture that populate the artist’s hometown With their self-referential flare, inhabiting a world reduced to two dimensions, these everyday objects intended for our interaction – their coin slots, keypads and buttons eagerly awaiting use – appear rather as readymades. Ultimately, they retain their form but lose their function.

We caught up with the rising artist to dicuss origins and his debut exhibition…

Hey! How are you doing?
I am very well. Writing this on the morning after the opening of my debut London solo show so slightly worse for wear but we move.

What initially led you to start creating art?
To be honest, it was the desire to be the best at something. I was on a family holiday when I was 17 and on a rainy day in Spain I picked up a sketchpad and decided to draw a portrait of a man. Upon finishing the sketch my mum, from over my shoulder, said “Wow! Thats better than your older sisters!” I was off. Who said a bit of sibling rivalry was unhealthy.

How has your style evolved into its present day form?
I have always been attracted to realism but my choice of subject matter has evolved quickly and changed dramatically as I’ve matured. Portraits were the starting point. I was always attracted to subjects that were close to hand, so friends and family were the subjects.

I then began to feel disillusioned painting portraits; what were they saying? Who could resonate with them?

My attention turned from the people around me to the objects around me. I still kept the same approach of choosing subjects that were in my immediate surroundings. My sister made way for Cash machines and my friends were replaced by elevators. I still see them as portraits, but of objects.

What other artists inspire you?
I’m lucky enough to have met a few of my painting heroes. Oli Epp, Alexander Guy, Nick Doyle to name a few.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work as Oli Epp’s assistant. I worked for him for nearly a year, and what a year it was. I owe him everything. He taught me how to conduct myself as a professional artist, how to work with galleries and how to make really sleek professional paintings.

Josephine Halvorson, Sayre Gomez and Gary Hume are other artists who I really admire. I feel like their work gave me permission to paint what I wanted.

Also of course the guy who invented the ATM.

Your work sparks interesting conversations surrounding form and function, as well as commercialisation and capitalism. When did you start exploring these ideas and why are they areas of focus for you?
It all started with a painting of an ATM. It was showing in a small exhibition that only had a cash bar. An inebriated friend jokingly tried to use it to get cash out. Despite knowing full well it wasn’t going to fulfil the purpose he was intending, just the act of him interacting with my flattened simulation of the real thing was enough to set me off!

This calls to mind the well known Grecian tale of Zeuxis’ and Parrhasius’ contest of artistic artifice. Painting a still life so real that birds would fly down to eat the grapes is exactly the same as a drunk mate trying to get cash out of a painting, right?!

There is also the added element that the subjects I paint are often losing their function in reality. When was the last time you used a telephone box? Or even a vending machine? These objects, once at the cutting edge of technology are now being replaced and becoming redundant. Through my painstaking 1:1 translation of them in oil paint onto canvas, that loss of function becomes completely functionless; it is after all only a painting.

It’s also probably worth adding that lots of the objects I paint seem to disappear shortly after I immortalise them. Removed by the council, surplus to requirement, gone from the face of the earth. My paintings act as an archival record. Some may say I have the opposite of a Medis touch.

Congratulations on “LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH”! When did you start working on this collection of work and what are you most excited for people to see with it?
I started this body of work immediately after returning from Paris for my solo show ‘Hole in the Wall’ at Long Story Short Gallery. I wanted to expand on the work I had created there and populate (or litter) it with more objects seen through my lens. It became like a sims expansion pack.

What is the experience like of letting your work out into the world and watching people interact with it, after spending so long working on it by yourself?
That’s what it’s all about. Seeing people’s responses, what they gravitate towards and just generally seeing it in its intended space; the gallery. I always love to hear what different people notice about the paintings. It’s amazing how differently people can read the same paintings.

How does it feel to have your first London solo exhibition?
Honestly it’s very surreal. I first stepped foot into Carl’s space on Savile Row 3 years ago to see Emma Stern’s (Lava Baby) show ‘Revenge Body.’ I was blown away by the space and the type of work the gallery showed; it was fun! I made a quick remark to a friend saying that in 5 years time, I would love to have a piece of work showing in this gallery. Fast forward 3 years…here we are.

Hometown exhibitions are also always amazing. The love and support I have been given by the London art scene as well as my friends and family has been unrivalled. I am a very lucky guy.

Is there a piece you’re most proud of or one that took you the longest to finish?
There is a painting in the show called “Coke Addict”. It depicts a vending machine full to the brim with coke bottles. Before even putting paint to the canvas, I had to make a pilgrimage to both Westfield Stratford and White City to take photos, followed by an odyssey to Gatwick airport. Needless to say, by the end of the day, phone on 5%, body running on empty, I secured the reference photo that became the painting.

Then the hard work began. 45 coke bottles, all subtly different; nuance highlights, slightly twisted labels, diet or zero. It became an exercise in patience and a testament to my neuroticism. All the blood, sweat and mainly tears was worth it though as it made a painting that I enjoy looking at.

Is there anything else you’re excited about moving forward?
Making more paintings!

Be sure to stop by this astonishing exhibition and lose yourself in a two dimensional world…