Merlin James

Harbour, 2011, Acrylic on polyester, wood frame, 38 x 74 cm, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Photography by Stephen White.

Merlin James

6 June – 10 August 2013

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art is delighted to present the work of painter Merlin James from 6 June to 10 August 2013. The exhibition will focus on a selection of works ranging from the start of James’ career (the early 1980s) through to the present day. This will be the artist’s first major solo exhibition in a London institution.

James’ somewhat enigmatic paintings address a vast and eclectic range of subject matter and richly metaphoric imagery, including land- and sea-scapes, figures, architecture, interiors and erotic scenes. What they frequently have in common is their modest scale, highly-considered composition and a seeming effortlessness of execution which belies their complexity. As particular and individual in their use of colour as they are distinctive in composition, James’ works interrogate traditional approaches to painting, often actively integrating the physicality of the canvas and stretcher into the composition, as well as incorporating dust, glue or debris into the surface. Heightening a sense of intentionality, or purpose, James at times cuts holes in, or adds three-dimensional objects to, the work.

James’ work often seems to comment on or make reference to modernist painting, and much that has been written about his work concentrates on his sources in art. But although he does draw on the ‘golden age’ of modern painting, and paintings by lesser known modern artists, to dwell excessively on James’ sources would be to miss altogether the intensity of the viewing experience and the ensuing intellectual challenges his work offers.

Born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1960, Merlin James studied in London at the Central School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He currently lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland.