Merlin James – The River and the Sea.
This selection of work begins with two depictions of the river Clyde in Glasgow. Both are exceptional in James’s practice in terms of their scale and in the close connection of the subject matter to James himself. It is more usual for him to make images that are analogues to, or at some remove from, his own experience, but here they represent something close to a testimony. The first depicts Carlton Place, the Georgian terrace containing the house that James shared with his late partner Carol Rhodes.The second is the view from that house of the opposite bank of the river. Neither was made from direct observation however, but in the (windowless) studio at the back of the house from his accumulated knowledge/memory of what is seen from the two viewpoints.The second group of works begins with German Sea, perhaps the most enigmatic of the series of seascapes that James began in 2003.
The sea and the river are both symbols with connections to notions of parting, crossing and passing on. In the works selected for this folio James also makes reference to art historical genres of landscape painting, critically reflecting on their terms and conditions.
I think that we apprehend the world as an enigma much of the time, perhaps because we imagine or wish for meaning or narrative. I may be making work about that enigma partly, or the melancholy of feeling that in fact there is no meaning or narrative, outside our wish for it. But individual experiences in life are still infinitely complex and varied, and art both gains and gives meaning by engagement with them.And when one hits extremes in life,of either joy or pain, you want art to be equal to that.You don’t want it to feel inconsequential, a mere diversion.
[Merlin James in conversation with Ellen Blumenstein, 2013]
Merlin James is a painter and writer living in Glasgow.
He is represented by Kerlin Gallery, Dublin and Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York