Callum Eaton AKA the “ATM guy” creates hyperreal paintings of cash points
The London-based artist shares the references that lie beneath the Hole in the Wall series – a project which asks us to notice the unnoticed.
- Olivia Hingley
- 26 April 2023
Once upon a time, the ATM’s that lined the UK’s highstreets could regularly be seen with a disgruntled seven-person-long queue. Now, the luminescent machines mainly sit in near disuse and disrepair. It was this fact that the artist Callum Eaton sought to draw attention to with his series Hole in the Wall.
It was a few years ago when Callum first began his foray into painting cash points. Painting a single ATM, he was “amused” by people’s reaction to the true-to-scale reproduction. “It became a simulation, a replica. The objects I created had the appearance of the object but without any of the practical usage,” he identifies.
For the artist, the paintings have a broader significance. Callum identities the way in which the humble cash point represents “the pace of which technology falls in and out of favour”. He expands: “Once on the cutting edge of technology, the cash machine is now no more than a germ collecting, graffiti-tagged relic that has been overtaken by Apple wallets and contactless payments.” Moreover, the paintings embed within them a “tongue-in-cheek” critique, only more emphasised when hung in a gallery setting. “The art world is very complicit in capitalist structures and it’s easy to forget that paintings and other art objects are a luxury commodity,” Callum highlights.
When we last spoke to Callum in 2021 he was living in Bath and his work focused on visual signifiers of life in Britain. Since, Callum has moved back to London and seen a few significant changes to his practice. Firstly, his move was instigated by a position assisting the artist Oli Epp. The experience was one Callum describes as “invaluable” for giving him a precious insight into “what it takes to be a practising contemporary artist”. But the experience was one that also presented Callum with a new way of working. Before, he had “all the time in the world” to make paintings, and while working with Oli he only had two to three days of painting a week. “This made me highly selective of my subject matter and materials, meaning everything was planned and prepared on the days I was assisting so I optimised the time I had for my own work,” Callum explains.
This new schedule combined with conversations with Oli and the other artists Ant Hamlyn and Liam Fallon pushed Callum into an entirely new artistic realm. “They all separately spoke of the importance of developing a series of work and recommended that I make a number of cash machines instead of just a one stand-alone painting; this changed everything. I am now the ‘ATM guy’!,” Callum laughs.
Upon immersing himself in the world of cash points, Callum soon realised how visually unique they really were. Each had their own signifiers – chipped screens, out of order signs, stickers or mirrors – something Callum saw only as accentuated at night, when they were all illuminated with their own neon borders. It was these elements that Callum had the most fun painting, and the aspects that gives each painting such distinct character. Moreover, with the help of a tape measure, all of Callum’s paintings are all true to scale and size. “I wanted to make a life-size painting of a lifeless object,” the artist says.
One painting from the series that stands out for Callum is his rendition of a Lloyds Bank ATM. Particularly for the way it demonstrates his interest in surface, depth and flatness – the reflective quality of the border, the flatness of the logo, and the two small self-portraits in the tiny equidistant mirrors – but also for the way he references other artworks. The two self-portraits take inspiration from one of his favourite paintings in the National Gallery, Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, while the painting as a whole nods to Josef Albers series homage to the square. Callum summarises that the painting is one that “rewards careful looking” – which is, for Callum, a signifier of a good piece of art.
Overall, for Callum the series is something of a visual archive – that of objects that have now fallen out of favour. Certainly, some of the cash points he’s documented have now been ripped out of their walls or covered over. The artist concludes by stating how the paintings have already served their intended purpose, “for people to notice the unnoticed”.
GalleryCallum Eaton: Hole in the Wall (Copyright © Callum Eaton, 2023)
Callum Eaton: Hole in the Wall (Copyright © Callum Eaton, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.