I paint primarily from life. This direct engagement with the sitter is an important part of my work. A portrait is not only about achieving a likeness but also about capturing the sitter’s individual energetic presence.
I am concerned with translating my ‘experience’ of looking. I want my paintings to suggest the sensation of stereoscopic vision, as the camera lens cannot, and to amalgamate the layers of looking - indeed the layers of time - into one image. Ultimately I would like my work to express the sensation of having been there, of having stood in my shoes.
Each sitter represents a new proposition, calling for a unique solution in response. The artist might consider many factors in a portrait: personality, anatomy, facial expression, body language, aura, style, scale, perhaps even the human condition. This for me is the thrill of portraiture and the reason that I find it to be so endlessly engaging.
Composition, colour, tone and all the other considerations of the painter are also answerable of course. The portrait must function as an interesting painting in its own right. Various arrangements inevitably need to be made, and as the layers of time elapse it is vital that the work maintains its freshness in order that the energy and vitality of the living subject be contained in the finished work.
The paint-strokes map the journey of eye and hand, whilst colour and value are constantly weighed against the whole. Nature is not mimicked but rather translated and retold. An equivalent harmony is sought.
In my opinion, it is the representation at once of both the formal structure of the visible world and the intangible psychological insight - or ‘inner life’ – of the sitter that represents the greatest challenge in portraiture, as demonstrated in the portraits of Velasquez, Goya or Rembrandt.
I look forward to many more journeys in portraiture to come.
David Caldwell was born in Helensburgh in the West of Scotland in 1977. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art (1994-98) and the Royal Drawing School (2003-05). He has won several awards and residencies including the Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ own Bulldog Bursary and The Founder’s Purchase Prize at the ING Discerning Eye (adjudged by the late Brian Sewell).
He has twice been short-listed for the BP Portrait Awards, most recently in 2013 when he displayed 77 miniature portraits at the National Portrait Gallery.
In recent years David has been short-listed for various other major awards including the Seven Investments Management ‘Conversations’ Prize, the Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Prize, the Threadneedle Figurative Art Prize, the Lynn Painter-Stainers Award and the W. Gordon Smith Award. David lives and works as an artist and portrait painter in Highgate, London.
2017: The Hayman-Moritz Pignano Residency, Tuscany Italy
The Dimplex sponsored Dumfries House Residency, Ayrshire Scotland
2014: Regional Prize winner at The ING Discerning Eye Annual Exhibition
2010: Winner of the Founder’s Purchase Prize, at the ING Discerning Eye Annual Exhibition
2009: The Bulldog Bursary, awarded by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
2007: Artists Residency in Collioure, France, by invitation of the Mairie de Collioure
2006: Artists Residency in Port Vendres, France, awarded by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Association
2005: End of year Drawing Prize, at The Royal Drawing School, London.
2004: Artist in Residence –Lewisham College, London
2002: The Ruth Davidson Memorial Award – 3 month Artists’ Residency in South of France
1999: The John Cunningham Memorial Award, at the RGI Annual Exhibition, Glasgow
2017: The Scottish Gallery & Ewan Mundy Fine Art at Duke Street St James
“Tales in Light”, Tregony Gallery, Cornwall
The Discerning Eye Prize-winners Exhibition, Temple Church London
The ING Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries London
The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize, Mall Galleries
London Art Fair
The Scottish Gallery & Ewan Mundy Fine Art at Duke Street St James
The W Gordon Smith Award Exhibition, Dovecot Gallery, Edinburgh
The Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Prize, King’s Place London
The London Art Fair Islington, represented by Ewan Mundy Fine Art
The ING Discerning Eye Collection at Temple Church
The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, Mall Galleries London
The Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize Exhibition
The RGI Annual Exhibition, McLellan Galleries Glasgow
The ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, Mall Galleries
The BP Portrait Awards, National Portrait Gallery London
The Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Competition, King’s Place
The Threadneedle Prize Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London
The Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Collection Exhibition, University of Northumberland
The Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition
The ROI Annual Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London
The New English Annual Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London
The Ruth Borchard Self-portrait Award Exhibition, King’s Place
Group exhibition in Plyos, Russia
“David Caldwell - Snow Paintings”, Albert Drive Studios, Glasgow
“David Caldwell: Paintings from Russia and other Places”, Cyrll Gerber Fine Art, Glasgow
“David Caldwell – Works from France”, Alliance Francais, Glasgow
Solo show at L’ancienne Mairie, Collioure, France
“Hinterland”, Thomas Williams Fine Art, London
Notes from the New City”, Centre for Recent Drawings, London
“London Calling”, Mansfield Park Gallery, Glasgow
The Summer Show, Thompson’s Gallery, London
BP Portrait Award, National Portrait Gallery, London
Solo show at Mansfield Park Gallery, Glasgow
“Still Life”, solo show at The Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Solo show at Elaine Somers Gallery, Belfast
A regular exhibitor at The Royal Glasgow Institute and Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibitions.