James Frame Paintings
9 June - 31 July
Tuesday 8 June, 6–8pm
Mummery + Schnelle is pleased to announce an exhibition of new
paintings by Merlin James.
James has always been concerned with the physical make-up of
each painting – its surface, construction and material
components, including the stretcher. Cutting, extending and
piercing the canvas, painting around the sides and even onto
the reverse and incorporating material such as hair, his pictures
have been resistant to being framed. In a new development of
his practice, James has now begun actively to engage with the
problematics of 'picture framing', experimenting with tastes
and styles, adapting traditional frame mouldings and materials.
The works have integral picture frames that are not a final
addition, but rather constructed and modified alongside, or
even in advance of, the other elements of the painting. They
are not, therefore, ‘containing’ in the sense that
traditional frames are and nor do they necessarily denote that
what we are looking at are conventional easel paintings. They
do, however, raise questions of the definition or limits of
the work, the world and the subject.
The new paintings also use semi-transparent 'supports' such
as nylon, polyester and perspex, through which the stretcher
and the wall behind it can be seen, allowing the viewer to make
acquaintance with the whole structure. The stretchers are often
unusually constructed, and incorporate small model buildings
that have long been a kind of bi-product of James’s studio
work. The overall image seems formulated in a new vernacular
that combines painted and physical elements and images. These
works undermine the idea of the painting as image-on-support.
Instead it is a constructed, reflexive entity in which image
and material are simultaneous and interdependent.
James is known for a diverse and intermixed lexicon of imagery,
partly generic, partly personal or esoteric. He depicts skies,
seas and landscapes, sex, bridges and piers, birds, archaic
figures, boats, building façades, interiors, heads and
faces. These ‘subjects’ resist essentialist “meaning”
in favour of subjective and shifting readings. Interestingly
however, the transparent materials used in the new Frame Paintings
foreground James’s imagery, which floats free of painterly
context, renewing questions of how it is to be read. Often metaphorical
of relationships between making and looking, autonomy and relationship,
and between the artist and the audience, James's images invite
interpretation, yet make us aware we are collaborating in a
meaning – a painted world – to which we give shape
and resonance, and that does not exist without us.
With their evocation of genre, James’s paintings have
been read as a deconstruction of paintings past achievements.
To the extent that there can be said to be an appeal to tradition
in his work, it is in the form of a critical reflection on the
history of art, not some conservative acquiescence in the face
of it. James does not appropriate historical genres, but uses,
reshapes and destabilizes them. Deconstruction for him is a
dismantling of the tradition in terms of what has been unthought
within it and what remains to be thought by it. It is, therefore,
a positive, reactivated sense of the tradition, not a received
experience of the past, and it permits a critical consciousness
of the present.
Merlin James was born in Cardiff in 1960 and now lives and works
in Glasgow. Images and full biographical and bibliographical
information about him can be found here.
Merlin James was the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council grant
For enquiries, please contact
Andrew Mummery at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wolfram Schnelle at: email@example.com
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a press release in pdf form