"Paintings for Persons"
October 13—November 12, 2016
Merlin James is a conceptual artist who uses painting as an apparatus to scrutinize the urge of ‘art making’. In his introspective practice, Glasgow-based artist recurrently delves into his own repertoire as well as others’. “I don’t like art to look brand new, nor ‘of its time’ really, because then it dates and goes to look tired,” underlined James in an interview with Journal of Contemporary Art in 1999. While being an artist is a topic James repeatedly tackles in his subtle paintings, his eschewal of reaching a conclusion is what makes his practice exquisite. His reversed paintings, for example, challenge painterly drives, while signaling open-ended commentaries on creativity and artistic paradigms.
In his second exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., James, also an art critic himself, presents works dedicated to specific people, be that another artist or a family member. Romantic as well as bold, these paintings question the dynamics of art as a social and objective channel, complicating the separation between personal and public. Placing the viewer into a voyeuristic role between the artist and the addressee promises demure narratives and tender brushstrokes. Akin to letters referred to mysterious receiver, James’s paintings are enigmatic, lyrical and subliminal.