The Middle Distance
6th June - 19th July 2003
For this, his second show at the Kerlin Gallery, Merlin James has chosen to concentrate on landscapes which has been a recurring theme within the artist's very diverse practice over many years. The works range from the 80's to the present and include work that are newly finished after long gestation time in the studio (begun as much as 10 yrs ago). James' particular approach to landscape is complex. On one level landscape is a generic subject allowing the artist to interrogate painting's nature, history and potential. Perennial concerns of painting's depth and flatness, presence and absence, distance and proximity, are explored. At the same time the poetry, power and moodiness of James' landscapes is real and expressive, not an ironic quotation or deconstruction of concepts such as 'tradition' 'the sublime' or 'the picturesque'. James is very conscious of landscape artists from Poussin, the Dutch 17th century tradition and Thomas Jones, up to French modernists such as Soutine, Derain, De Stael, and English and Irish figures including William Nicholson and Jack Yeats.
The places depicted in these works are only occasionally identifiable sites - mostly they are a kind of fiction. The play in the work is between remembered, imagined and anticipated places - a reconstruction of worlds passed by, recollected, longed for. Figures rarely appear but habitations and invented structures often feature, and the environment is very much one in which human emotion is felt, and onto which feelings, hopes and sorrows might be projected. At the same time these landscapes unashamedly aspire to beauty, and to the discovery of beauty in unlikely forms.
Merlin James was born in Cardiff in 1960 and now lives and works in London. He studied painting at the Central School of Art, London and the Royal College of Art, London. Past solo exhibitions include the National Gallery of Wales and Kettle's Yard Gallery, Cambridge. He has written extensively on art in the Burlington Magazine, Times Literary Supplement and elsewhere. In 1996 he gave the Kingston University Stanley Picker Lecture at the Tate Gallery entitled 'The Non-Existence of Art Criticism. In 2002 James was appointed to the Alex Katz Chair in Painting at the The Cooper Union School of Art in New York where he delivered and published his lecture entitled Painting per se. Forthcoming shows include a touring retrospective originating at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh in 2004.