Farewell, Iain Campbell

p2411 Iain Campbell Artist Dreaming 2001By KIERAN FINNANE


Much-loved Alice Springs artist Iain Campbell has died. There will be no more paintings of this place from his penetrating yet warm and humorous eye, from his skilled, well-trained hand.


The Scottish-born and raised artist, who arrived in town in 1975, leaves behind an incomparable body of work, for no other has fixed their gaze so persistently on the modern town of Alice and on how its settler population lives within it.


Happily, it is not so long (2014) since we had the chance at the Araluen Arts Centre to appreciate a retrospective of his work, ranging across four decades.


Right: Iain Campbell, Artist Dreaming, 2001. 


Iain was a fine portrait painter, of himself and others; some were acquaintances, others were dear friends; we saw them grow old and some died; we saw a marriage end; dreams haunted by harsh memories of the past, by unsettling premonitions of the future. They gave way to the consolation and optimism of a new love. And with retirement, the workplace (another favoured, unusual subject) ceded to the pleasure of the home studio.


We saw and remembered through his renderings the places of his Alice Springs that came and went, or got remodelled, transformed – the waterslide, Araluen, Witchetty’s, the Todd Tavern, the Memo Club, the old airport.


Even bricks and mortar can slip through our fingers. Iain opened our eyes to a kind of beauty and emotion in our everyday urban vistas and their life cycles.


His  vocation as an artist endured. He painted himself napping beneath his jars of paintbrushes. His past works visited him like old friends.


Last year he commenced a major new series, looking back on key episodes of his life. He was painting with all the energy and mastery of old. A central work in this series was completed in time for the Central Australian Art Society’s annual award exhibition, in which it was a category winner.


Titled Lost Works, it showed the artist as an old man standing in the doorway of a room he once lodged in as a young artist in Glasgow. He looks in on the figure of that young man, who looks out at us, brush dangling in his left hand, with all the unknowingness of a man setting out in the world.


He could not have foretold where he would spend the greater part of his adult life, in a small town in the middle of a big country on the other side of the globe. Nor could he have seen foreseen the works that would arise from what he found in life there.


Iain will be deeply missed, by those closest to him most sorely, and by Alice Springs, his home town and, to our great fortune, longtime muse and final resting place.


Below: Iain Campbell, Witchetty’s, 1994. 

p2411 Iain Campbell Witchettys_1994 660


RELATED READING and more images: 


Iain Campbell: reflections on an artist’s life and times by MIKE GILLAM




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33 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Vicki Grabner
    Posted April 26, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    I had a dream of you Iain last night and hopped on the net to check out what you are doing. To my dismay I find my teacher has laid down his brushes.
    Alice Springs will miss your excellent eye and wit. Iain, thanks for all of your encouragement. So, with a judicious sniff, a fond goodbye.

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  2. Shawn Carll-Dobson
    Posted March 12, 2017 at 7:22 am

    So sad to hear this news. Iain was head of the art deptment at the Alice TAFE when we first met. The boys certainly gave him a run for his money. Love you my friend. RIP.

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  3. Posted March 7, 2017 at 3:09 am

    RIP dear Iain Campbell. Deepest sympathy to all who knew him and cared for this lovely outstanding Alice Springs artist. He certainly enriched and brightened my life by sharing his art and wisdom. He was always kind and supportive. What a wonderful artist. I am very sad to see his passing. Thank you Alice Springs News and Keiran for writing this beautiful farewell for an artist who touched so many lives and inspired many. Sending love to all.

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  4. Mike Owen
    Posted March 2, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Thanks Kieran, well said. As I review the decaying ratio of my tomorrows to yesterdays, I have only gratitude for those populated by Iain.

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  5. Mike Harding
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    RIP Iain. A wonderful man, artist, and much loved Territory legend.

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  6. Ron Talbot
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Thanks Kieran.
    A great loss to the art world. Iain was my first art teacher when I took those tentative steps into the world of painting. His kind and gentle manners helped me gain confidence. He taught me the basics of colour and light ( I still have those swatches) and not to be afraid of painting over “mistakes”. He was a highly respected and long time member of the Central Austalian Art Society.

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  7. Maya Cifali
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Thank you Iain for being part of my life in Alice Springs, you have added to it the colors and humour that we all needed. You’ll be missed. And thank you Kieran for a wonderful description of Iain’s work and perceptive eye.

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  8. Geoff Aitken
    Posted February 28, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    I always lamented when the conversation with Iain ended. Shy about his talent but his artistic intent could never be mistaken. I have relocated but have a painting that will always be him, The Alice and friends. A considerate man and generous at all times. He joins the greats. My thoughts are with his family. Geoff and Jenny

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  9. Les Platt
    Posted February 28, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Sad to hear of the passing of Iain, a much loved man. Thinking of Mandy at this time.
    The painting I have of him in his studio assumes greater significance.
    Vale Iain.

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  10. Harriet Gaffney
    Posted February 28, 2017 at 11:55 am

    The gentle, quiet spaciousness of Iain’s work reflected him so well. A compassionate and perceptive eye and heart. With love and deepest sympathy to you Mandy. Vale Iain Campbell.

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  11. Peter Girvan
    Posted February 28, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Saddened to lose a great friend. Thirty years ago he made me most welcome to Alice TAFE as a colleague & introduced me to the life of Alice Springs. He will be remembered by me as an artist, musician, fine teacher and generous man. Remembered by many others around Australia in the same way. May he rest in peace.

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  12. Herman Marcic
    Posted February 27, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I remember having drinks with Iain (or as I’d address him Sir Iain) at Bloodwood concerts, art shows.
    What a man a real gentleman, if only everyone could take a leaf out of his book.
    What a wonderful world it would be.


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  13. Sue Richter
    Posted February 27, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Thankyou Kieran for your reflection. Thank you Iain for your images of our world – a great artist and a beautiful man. My sympathies to Mandy.
    Sue Richter

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  14. Pip McManus
    Posted February 27, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    A gentle and generous man whose commitment to his sense of place and perception of the world always rang true in his paintings. The legacy of his art provides an enduring window to a particular aspect of Alice over many decades. My condolences to Mandy and family. Vale Iain.

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  15. Milton Blanch
    Posted February 27, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Iain Campbell – not only a fine artist – but a true gentleman. The Alice has lost a person of great insight, capturing the changing moods and character of that unique town. He lives through his art and in our memories. Thank you Iain. You have earned your eternal peace.

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  16. Tony Yarham
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Iain and I both worked at ASHS in the 70s. He was a wonderful colleague. I particularly remember his help with the Prefects’ (yes, they existed then!) Ball. He produced wonderful paintings to adorn the hall on the theme of a deck of cards. They must have taken him hours. May I extend my condolences to his family.

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  17. Lucy Stewart
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks Kieran, this painting is how so many of us will remember Iain, just off having a nap in his studio. A true Centralian treasure, such generosity of sprit and warmth of heart. Iain your art, antics and charm touched so many in our community, like our little family. I have such wonderful memories of you singing ‘flow gently sweet Afton’ to our then babe now grown girl and you bringing in paintings for exhibition that were so fresh the paint was still wet. Condolences and much love to Mandy and all your family. Rest Well friend.

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  18. Dawn Greenwood
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 9:59 am

    A lovely reflection Kieran. Rest in peace Iain. He will be sadly missed. Our deepest sympathy to all the family.

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  19. Craig San Roque
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Thankyou Alice News for a true and beautiful acknowledgement of Iain’s life and work.

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  20. Julie Taylor
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Such a sad loss to the arts community – for me Alice Springs will just not be the same without Iain. Well loved and remembered for his approachable and ever-friendly manner, his participation in art events, meetings and social gatherings. A great artist.

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  21. Janet
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    We’re very sad to hear that Iain has departed this life. He was known for his kindness and generosity of spirit, a painter of wonderfully evocative pictures and singer of certain songs – one in particular pertaining to a ‘robin’…. What a lovely man.
    Our sincere condolences and Best Wishes to Mandy and his loving family.
    Vale Iain Campbell.

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  22. Jo Hodges
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Sorry to hear Iain has passed. So many memories of him and my dad Jack Barford at the many folk festivals and club nights, and especially Tennant Creek Goldrush Folk Festival. Oh my Lordy I can just see them now catching up with a few ales and reminiscing over the good ole days.

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  23. Ann and David Cloke
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    A great man and a wonderful artist and inspiration to all he met. RIP, Iain.

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  24. Liz Scott
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    I’m very sad to hear of Iain’s death.
    Thank you Kieran for a lovely article and perfect image.
    Many years ago I returned to Alice from overseas, specifically to learn to paint from Iain. His tuition was beyond my expectations.
    I came to love his lilting accent, filled with respect, humour, gentleness; and the manner of his positively framed gentle critiquing of students work.
    I think he was the most generous teacher I’ve had; generous with his knowledge, time, heart and experience.
    Alice has lost one of our great treasures. To Mandy and Iain’s family, I send you deep condolences.
    Vale Mr Campbell.
    You will remain in my heart forever.

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  25. Jeanette Cook
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    i arrived in Alice Springs in 1976 not long after Iain but I didn’t meet him until my Tech College days when I’d decided to learn more artistic skills. Iain was a kind and understanding guide and I progressed happily in newfound areas.
    Over the years we became “drinking and dancing” partners, often being the life of any party.
    I remember having a portrait displayed in the old restaurant along the road through the hills of White Gums.
    Our then Lady Mayoress was present photographs were being taken for entry into the then paper. I had asked Iain to say a few words. Our friendship developed continued to this day.
    I shall miss Iain Campbell-Darling. Vale my friend.

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  26. Marina Strocchi
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Vale Iain Campbell. We remember him as a very friendly, kind person and a generous artist. His paintings live on.

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  27. Andrea Sullivan
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    A sad loss for family, friends and community. R.I.P. my friend.

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  28. Mike Gillam
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Thanks Kieran. I had a coffee with Campbell this morning, just me and the masterpiece that hangs on our wall. I was very composed until I read your tribute… Bird-watching on the banks of the Todd. That’s where I’ll remember him most vividly, under the spell of kingfishers and pardalotes.

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  29. Ted Egan
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Oh, flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?
    Vale dear friend,
    Nerys and Ted

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  30. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted February 25, 2017 at 6:32 am

    A great artist, bird lover and good friend, Iain will be with us forever. Vale Iain.

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  31. Posted February 24, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    Only thinking the other day I hadn’t crossed paths with Iain Campbell for awhile.
    He was always a cheerful and pleasant person whenever we exchanged greetings and briefly caught up on the latest news.
    My brother and I were amongst the many students at the Alice Springs High School in the late 1970s when Iain was new to town but he always remembered us.
    A charming man, Iain had become one of the great characters of our town, and the news of his passing certainly provides pause for thought. He will be fondly remembered.

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  32. Penelope McDonald
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    A sad loss of a generous, kind, astute artist and much loved man. Thinking of his family and friends. Rest in peace Iain.

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  33. Ruth Elvin
    Posted February 24, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    We mourn his loss. Iain was hugely important to Alice Springs’ art life and much loved. Vale Iain.

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