This exhibition is intended to be both a small survey of, and an introduction to, some of the themes and images that have remained consistent in Merlin James’s practice from the 1980s until the present, tracing how these recur and transform. These themes and motifs often involve sources, journeys and destinations, the interior and exterior. They include springs, reservoirs, the sea, the facades of buildings, rooms and walls. Repeatedly there are points of departure and passage, access and arrival - tunnels, steps, doors, boats, bridges, piers. Always there are metaphorical links to the practice of painting as a carrier of meanings.
Drawn from works retained by the artist in his studio the exhibition includes a number of pieces which have never been exhibited before and suggests some of the ways in which James’s work might be read and understood.
Merlin James works instinctively. His paintings leave visible the mechanics of picture making. They assert their own manufacture. Perhaps we can read James’s art as being born from the constrictions - of images and materials - that it chooses for itself and applies to itself. In James’s work painting is both technique and game, suspended between the rational and the paradoxical. He depicts forms that create expectations, evoke memories and thereby produce an effect of meaning. Their repetitions and variations insert small areas of symmetry into the chaos of reality.
Merlin James (born 1960) lives and works in Glasgow. His work has been exhibited in Berlin since 2002, including in solo exhibitions at KW Institute for Contemporary Art (2013) and Aanant & Zoo (2014). Most recently his work was included in the exhibition "Leben in Bildern. Ein Porträt des Sehens für Rudolf Zwirner" at the PalaisPopulaire (August 2023). Recent exhibitions elsewhere include solo shows with Chris Sharp in Los Angeles (2023) and Anton Kern in New York (2022); and the exhibition Double Shuffle (with Victoria Morton) at Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2023).
Curated by Andrew Mummery