‘There is no bathroom rug in Psycho’: MacGuffins and Corpses in the Paintings of Steven Campbell

*This event is organised by the National Galleries of Scotland

Dr Gráinne Rice (National Galleries of Scotland)

This talk will explore representations of crime and violence in the work of postmodern Scottish painter Steven Campbell (1953-2007).

The confusing, dream-like narratives in Campbell’s paintings can be read as an homage to Surrealist preoccupations with the subconscious, a revisiting of Levay’s notion of ‘modernism’s deep connections to popular and middlebrow culture’ (pp. 3 Levay, 2013).

Campbell’s 2000-02 Psycho Rugs series of drawings and paintings are a synthesis of motifs borrowed from 1930s detective comics, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho and true crimes stories. Campbell’s exploration of detection, crime and violence can be linked to a wider artistic interest in these subjects in postmodern art and literature of the 1970s and 1980s.


Nelson, M, and Hudson Bayliss S., Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder (2006).

Macmillan, D., Steven Campbell: The Caravan Club (2002).

Eburne, J., Surrealism and the Art of Crime (2008).

Levay M. “Remaining a Mystery: Gertrude Stein, Crime Fiction, and Popular Modernism”. Journal of Modern Literature. 2013;36 (4) :1-22.

The talk is free and will be followed by a reception.

For further University of Edinburgh Dada & Surrealism Research Group information, please visit: https://www.eca.ed.ac.uk/research/dada-surrealism-research-group

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