Intersection is a culmination of Alexander James’ long-standing fascination with the theme of vanitas (a symbolic work of art associated with still life). Running 25 April until 23 May at The Studio Building, London, the exhibition highlights his mastery of an entirely unique artistic process. Taking objects from nature and handmade props, James puts together underwater sculptural installations in black tanks full of highly purified water, which he then photographs. Relying on the natural interaction between the object, light and lens when plunged into water, his photographs have a painterly effect. With no digital editing or post-production involved, Intersection is an intriguing display of photographic purity including works from his Vanitas, Swarm and Glass.
The artist’s series Vanitas is directly influenced by the 17th century Dutch masters and also carries his continued interest in the fragility of life. These works depict objects such as decaying fruit, cut flowers and valuable items to illustrate the transience of life and earthly pleasures. The subtle yet pervading presence of water in these works not only changes the aesthetics but symbolises the power that water has both to give life and to take it away. The consistent message apparent in these works has preoccupied James’ artistic output for almost a decade and they appear here on large-scale to envelop the viewer.
Another work Grace is two metres in height and will be unveiled for the first time at Intersection. This piece exemplifies all the processes that James has developed to create depictions of organic materials that celebrate life whilst capturing its transience. The work portrays a still-life scene of colourful tulips placed in a simple terracotta vase. The symbolism of the work is manifold; some of the blooms are beginning to droop and lose their petals and a butterfly flies in the shadow of the vase. These motifs still resonate with a contemporary audience regardless of their 17th century roots.
Alexander James: Intersection, 25 April – 23 May, The Studio Building, Notting Hill, 21 Evesham Street, London, W11 4AJ.
1. Isis Bound, 2011 by Alexander James.