Alexander James

27 March 2014

Exhibitions, Industry news

Alexander James is exhibiting Rastvorennaya Pechal - A solo exhibition of new work at the Triumph Gallery, 3/8, Ilyinka Street, Building 5, Moscow 109012, between 17 April and 11 May 2014. 

James has gained international recognition for his photographic works, which defy categorisation. His artistic process begins with the creation of intricate sculptural compositions, in which he utilises natural materials and handmade props. These scenes are created in vast tanks of purified water and photographed as a documentary act, before being destroyed. The play of light in water and James’ use of paint brushes and other objects on the surface tension of the water gives the resulting works a painterly effect, heightened by the dark background and vivid colours, which recall Dutch Vanitas still-life painting. Though rooted in tradition, James’ blurring of boundaries between photography, painting and sculpture lends his works a unique and contemporary aesthetic.

James’ key works may be found in The Monsoon Collection, Davis Museum Lisboa, Rothschild Group, DDB Group and Lend Lease Group, as well as in major independent collections of Peter Simon and Ivor Braka who was Francis Bacon’s primary dealer who was recently quoted as saying ‘I only buy things as a dealer when I have a belief in the quality of the work. I may not like it, but it has to be the absolute best’.

Most recently James’ work ‘Grace’ sold at a Christie’s London contemporary art auction in October 2013.

Now, the artist is developing an ambitious new series of large-scale works for the upcoming Moscow exhibition ‘Rastvorennaya Pechal’. Such is the magnitude of the project that he is relocating his entire studio to Moscow for four winter months, until the opening of the show. The new pieces he will unveil develop the themes explored in an earlier series entitled ‘A Beautiful Announcement of Death’ inspired by John Millais’ Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece Ophelia (1851) and La Jeune Martyre (1855) by Paul De La Roche. The new works will also be figurative with the artist working with live models suspended in water.

Requiring a large studio, the artist will work in a 250m2 space in the Red October, an island in central Moscow that housed a chocolate factory under czars and then Soviet authorities, and now a hub for contemporary art, which has hosted exhibitions by Gagosian Gallery, Baibakov Art Projects and the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. This, however, will be the first time the island has housed an artist and his studio.

James has relocated his studio in the past to Tokyo, Sydney and New York, which added particular flavours to the work he created. Now, the artist will form a unique dialogue with the surroundings in Russia by creating the works in situ and sourcing local materials.

The relocation of the studio and staging of the exhibition in Russia are particularly timely considering that 2014 will mark the year of cultural exchange between the UK and Russia. Supported by the British Council and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the exchange will see the biggest ever programme of UK cultural projects to take place across Russia and an unprecedented showcase of Russian culture in the United Kingdom. Major art events will include The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde at the Moscow Museum curated by British film director Peter Greenaway and a Kazimir Malevich retrospective organised by the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Tate Modern.

Triumph Gallery already has a reputation for introducing major British artists to a Russian audience and is renowned for presenting a dynamic exhibition programme, featuring major contemporary artists both from Russia and around the world. In 2006, the gallery became the first in the country to exhibit works by Damien Hirst, following with an exhibition by Jake and Dinos Chapman a year later. Joining this impressive roster, James will be amongst only a handful of British artists to have staged a solo show at the gallery and the only one to have produced the works in Russia.

The exhibition follows on from the artist’s critically-acclaimed show ‘Intersection’, which took place in London in May 2013.

Image: © Alexander James, previous works from the series ‘A Beautiful Announcement of Death’: Turned from Heaven’s Door 2012.

Alexander James was born in 1967 in London where he lives and works. In addition to solo shows in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Sydney and Paris, his work features in numerous collections across the globe, specifically The Monsoon Collection, Davis Museum Lisboa, Rothschild Group, DDB Group and Lend Lease Group, with prominent independent collectors such as Ivor Braka and Tony Dane also holding key works.

Triumph Gallery was founded in 2006 by Emelyan Zakharov and Dmitry Khankin. The gallery focuses on contemporary art and works with major Russian and international artists. Among well-known Russian artists represented by the gallery are AES+F, Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov, Alexei Beliayev-Guintovt and Recycle art-group.