Merlin James

Cardiff, UK, 1960

MJ canvases are small or medium-sized, and always give the idea of having something a little wrong with them, something under the surface that belies the naivety and apparent simplicity of certain images of his that often coincide with the genre: slight irregularities in the frame, solid surfaces steeped in materials, sandy, even hairy things (the artist has applied hair, horsehair, bamboo fuzz to many of his canvases) that seem to have accumulated on top of them. Some canvases also look secondhand, repainted or recomposed with scraps of old canvases. With slight swellings, hollows, rips, holes, stitches… 

These inconsistencies make for skips and discrepancies in the image, jarring planes, fuzzy outlines. Among all the marks the artist deposits on his surface, some elude representation entirely: they’re just blobs, swathes, colored panels, hypotheses of abstraction sharing the space with figures. Elsewhere, the figure appears instead to swallow the stains and the irregularities in the canvas in lieu of generating its own. Further afield, the marks and squares subvert relationships between the painting’s planes and zones, complicating things and offering other possible readings of the images.

Davide Ferri, September 2020

Selected works

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Merlin James, Untitled, 2020, acrylic on canvas, cm.20x33,5
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Merlin James, Audience, sd, mixed media on canvas, cm.30x40
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Merlin James, Buildings, 2012, mixed media, cm.42,5x56
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Merlin James, House and Cloud, 2010, mixed media, cm.71x56
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Merlin James, Viewer, 2006, mixed media on canvas, cm.52x42
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Merlin James, Untitable, 2005-2008, acrylic on canvas, cm.65x70
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Merlin James, House Model, 2005-2006, mixed media on canvas, cm.32x50
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Merlin James, Coast, 2000-2002, mixed media on canvas, cm.42x46,5
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