A Unique Book by Callum Innes and Colm Tóibín


This winter, the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City mounted an exhibition of a collaborative project between an artist and a writer. Watercolors by the Scottish painter, Callum Innes, were exhibited alongside excerpts from the short story that inspired them, water | colour, by the Irish writer Colm Tóibín.


According to their press release, the gallery introduced Innes and Tóibín in February 2010. A long-time admirer of Innes’s work, Tóibín spoke at length with Innes about the artist’s watercolors during their initial meeting. The conversation was continued at Innes’s studio in Edinburgh last summer. As their creative connections became apparent and their friendship grew, the gallery asked Tóibín to write an essay in response to Innes’s works on paper, a request that led to Tóibín’s short story water | colour. After reading Tóibín’s text, Innes created a new body of watercolors based on it.


Tóibín’s text tells the story of Nora, a middle-aged housewife struggling with the recent death of her husband and its effect on her family. Tóibín elegantly weaves a poignant tale of loss, depression and, ultimately, the promise of healing, placed against the backdrop of the unique colors of the Irish shoreline.

Not only did the gallery produce an exhibition catalogue with the text and reproductions of the watercolors, but they also published ten unique livres d’artistes, with the complete short story and five original watercolors by Innes. Each of the deluxe, hand-bound books is named after one of the characters in the story. Graphic Arts is fortunate to have acquired conor.


Colm Tóibín and Callum Innes, conor, from the series water | colour (New York: Sean Kelly Gallery, 2010). Graphic Arts GAX 2011- in process.

Colm Tóibín is currently the Leonard L. Milberg ‘53 Visiting Lecturer in English and Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University. If you are a fan, another original story by Tóibín can be found in the current issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle 72, no.1 (autumn 2010).

Sean Kelly Gallery exhibit: http://www.skny.com/exhibitions/2010-12-16_callum-innes-colm-toibin/