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Rosy James takes Art off the Wall at J Gallery’s
Exhibition of A Crimson Affair

“The creative act may begin with a process during which association links run wild, creating new connections many of which might seem strange or implausible.”
                                            Nancy Andreasen
                                                                           “The Creative Brain
Such is the hallmark of this exhibition featuring the work of a foremost abstract painter to receive plaudits and praise following the opening of her solo show at the JGallery Northampton last Friday, November 14th 2008.This show runs until December 2008

The artist, Rosy James, has been painting for many years, especially since graduating from a Degree in Fashion and Textiles in 1997.Having had several solo shows in London she has been concentrating recently on new works for this show.

She has been a student at Chelsea College of Art and Design and obtained a Cert H.E.from St Martin’s College of Art. More recently, she has received a Masters Degree in Fine Art, from the University of Northampton.
Her love and passion for colour is clearly very evident in this show, capturing the vivacity of her approach to weld two particular art forms together, namely poetry and painting.

The words she uses are enshrined in the art forms combined with her own poetry which she has composed herself and which are available in her compilation entitled “A Crimson Affair”, which forms the title coincidentally of this show. These poems, which are acutely poignant and represent her feelings and accumulated responses to life changes and moods from an autobiographical standpoint., Each poem in the set, is referenced to a particular ‘colour’ which is significant in the overall display. Hence the start of the poem is seen in large bold type e.g.:-

Listening to Lilac
    . . . .  I search that land for you,
                   to come to me with your
          and fresh canvas, so together we may paint
                 a more complete landscape. 

These painted works draw on inspiration gleaned as a student and are epitomised by the works of artists such as Jackson Pollock, but more recently the works of Alex Harding and Lawrence Weiner to mention a few. Such works by Harding, such as Ruinart (2001) demonstrate the dialectic of internal/external factors as well as the ‘spiritual euphoria/formal values’ enshrined in their work. Rosy James, like Harding, exploits the surface tension and highlights the qualities of acrylic. The resultant energy ,flow and various skin formations, testifies to the physical act of making and the ‘calligraphic style’ which she has pioneered.Rosy’s work also reveals the tension between ‘sweeping areas of canvas’ and the tighter more controlled lettering, with which she completes  her poetic vision.
Each set of paintings are arranged as a diptych, an arrangement not lost on the viewer, since each panel is juxtaposed against a literal version of the poem in question. Thus we see a complimentary piece complete in colour harmonies and textures.

As in J.C. Charleworth’s descriptions, James projects ‘an understanding of the conceptual confusion that exists between materiality and vision, expressed through the combination of text and picture plane, surface pattern and surface qualities, combined within the textural elements of a painting’.

In this exhibition therefore, ‘colour’ is used as a ‘metaphor’. The story is encapsulated within the ten works in question and combines subtle layers of paint, vibrant textural glazes, which combines to form a varied and evocative image. This unique and integrated exhibition reveals the facility which she has painstakingly developed over many years  and is testimony to her grit and determination ‘to bring harmony into balance in her own life and that of the works.’ It also seeks to harmonise her activity in the ‘physical act of painting ‘and that of the ‘wordsmith’, for which she is equally at home.

From a purely ‘literary point of view’ I find many an echo in the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose style is somewhat reflected in words such as :-Heaven Haven:-     “and I have asked to be where no storms come, where the green swell is in the heavens dwell and out of the swing of the sea.”
                                                                            Gerard Manley Hopkins
                                                                      ‘Love Remembered ‘
                                          Editor: Celia Haddon; Michael Joseph London1997.
Needless to say, the works conjure up various allegories on love, requited and unrequited; we might be tempted to stray into the realms of Christina Rossetti, not least the works of the Pre Raphaelites. But Rosy James’s works are not in the least sentimental; indeed they are ‘elemental and life enforcing’.

In an earlier age, they might have stood comparison with the work of Giovanni di Paolo, who also took his inspiration from great literary themes such as Dante’s ‘Paradiso’ and the tradition of the vernacular poetry read aloud by the grammarian Giovanni de Spoleto.

A key element of the opening night was the choreography and dance performance, which against a backdrop of the lights together with the paintings in question, reinforced the cross art forms that we have been witness to recently, not least in the work performed by Juliette Binoche at the National Theatre.
This evening’s performance, danced to the accompaniment of poetry and with music from composers, such as Vangelis and Eric Satie, reinforced the impact that her art ‘stretches across the accepted boundaries of conventional painting and embraces music, light, poetry and movement.”

From a ‘Post Modern’ point of view, I concur a strong allegiance to the work of the Art and Language ,where in the work of Victor Burgin the use of the printed word is at it’s most influential. Burgin who espoused the power of the printed word “a stand alone concept ‘believed the word is a concept of something such as the work of art itself’.
In summary therefore, I believe that the JGallery has installed an artist who work is worthy of more exposure and has undoubtedly pushed the boundaries of conventional painting in a unique and personal idiom.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the words ascribed to another art movement Permanent Creation; “Artistic works are about communication, whatever the form this may take, as an idea, transient or tangible and who saw this ‘as a process that every human being could take forward.” This is a fitting description of her work.

Gerald Porter
Art Consultant & Curator for Schools Tate Gallery