At the Fraser Gallery Bethesda to February 12, 2004
By John Blee
© Washington Times
Saturday, January 8, 2004.
Reprinted with permission from The Georgetowner

John Blee

© Copyright 2004 Georgetowner.

It is the mystery of the Picts that has inspired F. Lennox Campello in his latest ambitious undertaking at the Fraser Gallery (1054 31st St. N.W., Tuesday – Friday 12 – 3 p.m., Saturday 12 – 6 p.m.). The Picts are a mystery because this Britannic tribe that lived to the north of Hadrian’s Wall, in what is now Scotland, were ethnically cleansed in the ninth century. This makes depictions of Picts a conjecture, and here Campello has used not only his considerable skills as a draughtsman, but has interpolated from the only sources that remain from Pict culture.

Campello depicts the Picts as warriors and lovers. That the Picts were formidable warriors might owe to the tattoos that they sported which were freshly imbedded in their skin before a battle. The bluish ink came from a root vegetable, woad that had an effect similar to PCP on the warrior thus making him extremely aggressive.

The pictorial sources for Campello’s warriors (and the Pictish women’s) tattoos are the standing rocks. These were introduced to him through Catriona Fraser’s photographic work. How some of these 30-foot high stones were transported to form astrologically based formations similar to Stonehenge is still not understood.

What Campello uses to frame much of the drawings is a large, usually dark rectangle, which creates drama and provides atmosphere for his articulated renderings. “Victorious Pict” stands in darkness, with light hitting his body, his chin thrust in the air. The tracery of tattoos creates an arabesque that is counterpoint to the heroic stance and the dramatic lighting of the work itself.

A Pictish belle is the subject of “Pictish Nation” and Campello has conjectured serpentine, pre-Raphaelite strands of hair to frame her head. “Pictish Warrior” is powerful with the scrubbed textural charcoal background that the figure is walking into. Campello portrays the Picts with his sensitive and varied line quality. Eros is very much present in these nude figures.

“Matrilineal” is a representation of a very pregnant nude woman with her tattoos swelling with her belly. Campello’s figures look contemporary because of the proliferation of tattoos sported by all ages in the US and Europe. Sometimes the figure gazes at the viewer and Campello has captured a gaze that is like that of deer in the forest. There is a special quality of being alert.