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The Big Picture: James Green – ‘Art should be powerful before it is beautiful’


Stroud artist James Green will exhibit his large-scale mixed media paintings this autumn in London and Dorset in a solo show. Photographer Simon Pizzey met James in his studio.

From the same street as Damien Hirst yet stylistically opposite, James Green’s work is created in a process that he describes as ‘a riot of vivid unpredictability’. Green is making his mark in the art world – attracting attention from top galleries and international collectors – through raw, instinctive paintings that ooze identity and originality; enriched by his own brand of chaotic extravagance.

His latest series, ‘Reckless Joy’ – which expresses the feeling of the moment a work is brought to life – is the most accomplished to date, combining elements from his formal training with expressive interpretations and celebrations of his radiant community, restless curiosities and unique observations on all that forms part of a colourful life in Stroud.

“Stroud is full of fascinating people, with unique thinkers from all walks of life that I feel privileged to work among on a daily basis. Having grown up here, it took living and travelling away to realise how special (and beautiful) Stroud really is and that it will always be home for me. My art is informed by our place and our people; the untampered commons I walk through each day and those I meet with and make connections,” said James.

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Green paints directly onto raw, unstretched canvas, working instinctively, without preamble or pause for thought. His earliest work was observational and figurative, with a kind of meticulous precision, but, having demonstrated this precocious skill, he felt free to cast-off formal technique and to work in a more expressive way, characterised by loose, vivid unpredictability. The first impression is of gestural vitality and rich painterly effect – bright colours merge into murky smudges; sharp definition blurs into misty formlessness. There are sweeping lines; scribbly detail; indistinct colour washes; paint drips, flows or clumps into crusty accretions. Suggestions of formal structure are quickly subverted. Amidst this abstract maelstrom there are hints of crude calligraphy, figuration and human faces – ambiguous, half-formed, partially erased. 

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James Green.

“The last decade has been about dissecting the human form in a process that is energetic, spontaneous, and organic. I now find it more powerful to capture the essence of a person rather than to render an exact image.

“The paintings I make today are one-offs that I couldn’t replicate. They are unique to specific moments, authentic to me. I don’t look for or seek inspiration; I live my colourful life and allow that to guide the path for my practice.”

James’ work is being exhibited at The Other Art Fair: 13 – 16 October at Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL, and Reckless Joy (Solo Show): 20 – 30 October at Canvas Gallery, 17 Haven Road, Canford Cliffs Poole, BH13 7LE.

Pictures by Simon Pizzey

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