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Merlin James approaches the history and legacy of painting with a highly considered and unconventional viewpoint. As commented by Artforum’s Sherman Sam, his work “has sought to rigorously problematise the experience of painting while simultaneously deepening its formal language”. Generally small in scale, his works depict diverse subject matter including vernacular architecture, riverside views, post-industrial landscapes, empty interiors, mysterious figures and scenes of sexual intimacy. His frame paintings on gauzy, sheer material treat the structure of the picture frame and stretcher bar as an integral part of the work, while works on canvas might be collaged with tufts of hair or sawdust, distressed, pierced, cropped or heavily overpainted. Also an erudite and thoughtful critic, James has a deep engagement with the history of art and this knowledge shapes and informs his practice. His works refine and renew many of painting’s most time-honoured concerns – genre and narrative, pictorial space and expressive gesture, the emotive resonance of colour and texture.

 

Merlin James lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland.

Selected Works

Selected Works Thumbnails
Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on cotton
87 x 75 cm / 34.3 x 29.5 in  

Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on cotton
87 x 75 cm / 34.3 x 29.5 in  

Inquire
Merlin James 
House tree bridge, 2018-21
mixed materials
121.5 x 160.5 x 5 cm / 47.8 x 63.2 x 2 in

Merlin James 
House tree bridge, 2018-21
mixed materials
121.5 x 160.5 x 5 cm / 47.8 x 63.2 x 2 in

Inquire
Merlin James
Stretch, 2016-2019
acrylic and mixed materials
61 x 59.1 cm / 24 x 23.3 in
Merlin James
Stretch, 2016-2019
acrylic and mixed materials
61 x 59.1 cm / 24 x 23.3 in
Merlin James
Stretch, 2016-2019
acrylic and mixed materials
61 x 59.1 cm / 24 x 23.3 in

Merlin James
Stretch, 2016-2019
acrylic and mixed materials
61 x 59.1 cm / 24 x 23.3 in

Inquire
Merlin James 
Day, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
144.8 x 195.6 cm / 57 x 77 in   

Merlin James 
Day, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
144.8 x 195.6 cm / 57 x 77 in   

Inquire
Merlin James 
The Window, 2020
acrylic and mixed materials
151.1 x 208.9 cm / 59.5 x 82.2 in  

Merlin James 
The Window, 2020
acrylic and mixed materials
151.1 x 208.9 cm / 59.5 x 82.2 in  

Inquire
Merlin James 
Night, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
127 x 180.3 cm / 50 x 71 in  

Merlin James 
Night, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
127 x 180.3 cm / 50 x 71 in  

Inquire
Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on canvas
48 x 72 cm / 18.9 x 28.3 in   

Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on canvas
48 x 72 cm / 18.9 x 28.3 in   

Inquire
Merlin James 
Birdcage, 2018
acrylic and mixed materials
31.1 x 22.9 cm / 12.2 x 9 in   

Merlin James 
Birdcage, 2018
acrylic and mixed materials
31.1 x 22.9 cm / 12.2 x 9 in   

Inquire
Merlin James 
Yellow Trees, 2003
acrylic on canvas
42 x 61 cm / 16.5 x 24 in   

Merlin James 
Yellow Trees, 2003
acrylic on canvas
42 x 61 cm / 16.5 x 24 in   

Inquire
Merlin James 
Red building, 2017-19
acrylic, hair and mixed materials on canvas
40 x 77 cm / 15.7 x 30.3 in  

Merlin James 
Red building, 2017-19
acrylic, hair and mixed materials on canvas
40 x 77 cm / 15.7 x 30.3 in  

Inquire
Merlin James 
Crossing, 2016
acrylic and mixed media
88 x 132 cm / 34.6 x 52 in  

Merlin James 
Crossing, 2016
acrylic and mixed media
88 x 132 cm / 34.6 x 52 in  

Inquire
Merlin James 
Painter (Hair), 2013-21
acrylic and hair on canvas
51 x 85 cm / 20.1 x 33.5 in 

Merlin James 
Painter (Hair), 2013-21
acrylic and hair on canvas
51 x 85 cm / 20.1 x 33.5 in 

Inquire
Merlin James 
Estuary, 2014
acrylic, wood and mixed media
100 x 186 cm / 39.4 x 73.2 in      
Collection of Musee d’Art Moderne de Paris
 

Merlin James 
Estuary, 2014
acrylic, wood and mixed media
100 x 186 cm / 39.4 x 73.2 in      
Collection of Musee d’Art Moderne de Paris
 

Inquire
Merlin James 
Mirror portrait, 2021
acrylic on canvas
46 x 30 cm / 18.1 x 11.8 in   

Merlin James 
Mirror portrait, 2021
acrylic on canvas
46 x 30 cm / 18.1 x 11.8 in   

Inquire
Merlin James 
Painter (Red), 1986
acrylic on canvas
67 x 143 cm / 26.4 x 56.3 in   
Collection of TATE Gallery, London
 

Merlin James 
Painter (Red), 1986
acrylic on canvas
67 x 143 cm / 26.4 x 56.3 in   
Collection of TATE Gallery, London
 

Inquire
Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on cotton
87 x 75 cm / 34.3 x 29.5 in  

Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on cotton
87 x 75 cm / 34.3 x 29.5 in  

Merlin James 
House tree bridge, 2018-21
mixed materials
121.5 x 160.5 x 5 cm / 47.8 x 63.2 x 2 in

Merlin James 
House tree bridge, 2018-21
mixed materials
121.5 x 160.5 x 5 cm / 47.8 x 63.2 x 2 in

Merlin James
Stretch, 2016-2019
acrylic and mixed materials
61 x 59.1 cm / 24 x 23.3 in

Merlin James
Stretch, 2016-2019
acrylic and mixed materials
61 x 59.1 cm / 24 x 23.3 in

Merlin James 
Day, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
144.8 x 195.6 cm / 57 x 77 in   

Merlin James 
Day, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
144.8 x 195.6 cm / 57 x 77 in   

Merlin James 
The Window, 2020
acrylic and mixed materials
151.1 x 208.9 cm / 59.5 x 82.2 in  

Merlin James 
The Window, 2020
acrylic and mixed materials
151.1 x 208.9 cm / 59.5 x 82.2 in  

Merlin James 
Night, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
127 x 180.3 cm / 50 x 71 in  

Merlin James 
Night, 2018-19
acrylic and mixed materials
127 x 180.3 cm / 50 x 71 in  

Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on canvas
48 x 72 cm / 18.9 x 28.3 in   

Merlin James 
Untitled, 2021
acrylic and ash on canvas
48 x 72 cm / 18.9 x 28.3 in   

Merlin James 
Birdcage, 2018
acrylic and mixed materials
31.1 x 22.9 cm / 12.2 x 9 in   

Merlin James 
Birdcage, 2018
acrylic and mixed materials
31.1 x 22.9 cm / 12.2 x 9 in   

Merlin James 
Yellow Trees, 2003
acrylic on canvas
42 x 61 cm / 16.5 x 24 in   

Merlin James 
Yellow Trees, 2003
acrylic on canvas
42 x 61 cm / 16.5 x 24 in   

Merlin James 
Red building, 2017-19
acrylic, hair and mixed materials on canvas
40 x 77 cm / 15.7 x 30.3 in  

Merlin James 
Red building, 2017-19
acrylic, hair and mixed materials on canvas
40 x 77 cm / 15.7 x 30.3 in  

Merlin James 
Crossing, 2016
acrylic and mixed media
88 x 132 cm / 34.6 x 52 in  

Merlin James 
Crossing, 2016
acrylic and mixed media
88 x 132 cm / 34.6 x 52 in  

Merlin James 
Painter (Hair), 2013-21
acrylic and hair on canvas
51 x 85 cm / 20.1 x 33.5 in 

Merlin James 
Painter (Hair), 2013-21
acrylic and hair on canvas
51 x 85 cm / 20.1 x 33.5 in 

Merlin James 
Estuary, 2014
acrylic, wood and mixed media
100 x 186 cm / 39.4 x 73.2 in      
Collection of Musee d’Art Moderne de Paris
 

Merlin James 
Estuary, 2014
acrylic, wood and mixed media
100 x 186 cm / 39.4 x 73.2 in      
Collection of Musee d’Art Moderne de Paris
 

Merlin James 
Mirror portrait, 2021
acrylic on canvas
46 x 30 cm / 18.1 x 11.8 in   

Merlin James 
Mirror portrait, 2021
acrylic on canvas
46 x 30 cm / 18.1 x 11.8 in   

Merlin James 
Painter (Red), 1986
acrylic on canvas
67 x 143 cm / 26.4 x 56.3 in   
Collection of TATE Gallery, London
 

Merlin James 
Painter (Red), 1986
acrylic on canvas
67 x 143 cm / 26.4 x 56.3 in   
Collection of TATE Gallery, London
 

KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2013

KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2013

Merlin James has been the subject of solo exhibitions at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany; Parasol Unit, London; New York Studio School; Vitamin Arte Contemporanea, Turin; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh; the National Museum of Wales and Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin. Recent solo exhibitions include OCT Boxes Art Museum, Shunde; OCT Art & Design Gallery, Shenzhen (both 2018) and CCA, Glasgow (2016). Recent group exhibitions include Willumsens Museum (Online, 2021); The Levinsky Gallery, Plymouth (2020); Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds (2019); Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra (2018) and Artspace, Sydney. In 2007, James represented Wales at the 52nd Venice Biennale.

Exhibitions

Exhibitions Thumbnails
Merlin James
Long Game, 2018
OCT Boxes Art Museum, China; OCT Art & Design Gallery, Shenzhen, China

Merlin James
Long Game, 2018
OCT Boxes Art Museum, China; OCT Art & Design Gallery, Shenzhen, China

Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland
Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland
Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland
Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland
Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland
Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland
Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland

Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland

Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany
Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany
Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany
Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany
Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany
Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany

Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany

Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK
Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK
Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK
Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK
Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK

Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK

Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 
Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 
Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 
Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 
Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 

Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 

Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland

Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland

Merlin James
Long Game, 2018
OCT Boxes Art Museum, China; OCT Art & Design Gallery, Shenzhen, China

Merlin James
Long Game, 2018
OCT Boxes Art Museum, China; OCT Art & Design Gallery, Shenzhen, China

Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland

Merlin James
Long Game, 2016
CCA, Glasgow, Scotland

Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany

Merlin James
Freestyle, 2014 
Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany

Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK

Merlin James
Merlin James, 2013
Parasol Unit, London, UK

Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 

Merlin James
Signal Box, 2013
KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

 

Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland

Merlin James
In the Gallery, 2012
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland