GALLERY46’s upcoming show ‘Civilisation’ is the debut solo exhibition by the British artist David James. It is comprised of a series of drawings and paintings that explore the relationship between personal experience and the history of art.
James’s ‘drawings’ and ‘paintings’ are neither drawn or painted in the conventional sense. The drawings are the result of a meticulous sanding technique he uses to partially erase and modify the reproductions of masterpieces by artists such as Velázquez and Rembrandt, torn from the pages of vintage art books. This seemingly destructive act abstracts iconic works from the history of art to the point of oblivion, but in doing so James creates new images with new identities.
The paintings are, in turn, fabricated objects made from digital enlargements of the drawings on archival canvas mounted to board, with the addition of layers of resin, hair and grit. Through this process, each mark and scratch in the original drawing is amplified. The viscosity of the resin and the irregular texture of the added hair and grit increases the gestural appearance of the paintings’ surfaces, whilst also further abstracting their source imagery.
The sublime materiality of James’s paintings both seduces and repulses on equal terms, a tension that highlights the possibilities of legibility and appropriation in image making.
David James is an artist living and working in London. During his career, he designed and art directed iconic imagery for musicians, publishers and brands, notably record sleeves for Soul II Soul, magazines for AnOther and advertisements for Prada. Over the past 8 years, he has developed a body of personal art work.
His practice consists of drawing, painting and assemblage. It is biographical in nature and utilises appropriated motifs from the history of art to explore subjects relating to personal experiences or current affairs. James’ process is experimental and intuitive. Ideas usually develop from a combination of unrelated investigations into the properties of objects, materials and tools. The work in Civilisation evolved from three separate disciplines – book collecting, mark-making and production. Together they form a mediation on the history of art, the human figure and iconography.