James’ paintings are a conglomerate of past, present and future. Outside the studio, he walks and draws simultaneously to record and collect information in the landscape as it appears and disappears over the course of a journey. Drawings and memory absorb the features and qualities of time spent in a place.
Upon returning to the studio to make a painting that reflects on both journey and place there is a tension between the relationship of the work to its source material, where specific features of a landscape may have to be lost in the studio process but later recur purely in a sense of ‘painting', with the language of plane, line and mark speaking of an experience of place over the more Cartesian reality of a specific site.
The following extract comes from a text written as a response to a walking drawing made on Hampstead Heath in November 2022:
The tree lies prone with limbs frozen useless in the air,
long haven given up the hope of a hand back up.
Still drawing, all of my body is in action to negotiate this moment,
I thread my legs into the branches to stay balanced while my hands clamour to record the grief of the terrain,
a body returned to earth,
a busy web of life and death co-existing without intervention.
The familiar axes of landscape are upended more than once while we are knotted together, briefly the king of limbs.
When am I?
This tussle comes to a close and the wooden spell breaks as my feet are benevolently returned to me,
and to the yielding ground once more.