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Neil Cameron

art historian and critic (1962-2008)

A gunmetal grid is superimposed upon a disembodied head. It could be a cage or a window, bat in this black on black image, it is both. It is internal and external at the same time, sensed as much as observed, a view to and a view from.

Caplin is not simply or solely an artist. He is also a virtuoso cellist who started playing music almost as soon as he could speak – one of those rare people who is as able in one field as another. Art, music and words are indivisible for Caplin; it is pointless to treat them as separate. You could say he suffers from a kind of benign synaesthesia that makes picture-making, musical composition, text production and instrumental playing all part of the same process. They are symbiotic, mutually dependent, as intertwined as the snake and branches of the tree in the Garden of Eden.

Perhaps they are a source of pain as much as a source of pleasure. Caplin is an artist who does not shy away from paring things right back to the bone. This book was created in the aftermath of his wife Judy’s death from cancer and Caplin has looked deeply into the mirror and beyond. These works of text and image are predicated on self-denial and self-exposure, allowing some breathing space for the ego while sometimes denying it to the soul. The head in the images is Caplin’s head, seeming to look out and inward at the same time. Like a modern-day phrenologist, Caplin has taken the measure of the bony casing of his being, his skull, reducing it on one level to nothing more than dimensions: 24 X 34 =.

Yet it is what lies within and at the root that is Caplin’s concern. He is a searcher for the essential, the elemental, the inviolable. He strips back to the absolute core, exposing the bareness and vulnerability of his individuality. The constraints of learned technique and literal description are not important, except that they can be disregarded or transcended by work that is resolutely evolutionary. With forms being repeated with minimal bat yet significant variations, they become something twisted away from where they started, almost like a strand of DNA – something that superficially seems the same and is nevertheless unique. Repetition is part of the equation, but it is repetition of a peculiarly revealing type. In these works, which pulsate with visceral rhythms, Caplin places his own head squarely and courageously on the block.

Neil Cameron (2003)

second column