Words : Anna Sampson


   Hey, how’s your week been?

 Busy. I got back from Berlin last Thursday so it’s pretty much been rest period. It was non stop- manically setting up an exhibition that lasted four nights . Now I’m just preparing for future exhibitions.


So you had a show in Berlin ?

Yeah! I run a record label called “Roots By The Oder” with a close friend Mculo who lives in Berlin. It’s a strictly vinyl label. We have established an imprint that tackles the collaboration of music and art so I went out and we put on an exhibition. I had a collection of my own personal work and specifically for the label had made charcoal drawings and a wall installation piece. Seperate to this, I had a video installation I directed and my friend Lucas Smith produced. This was my first solo show in Berlin.


‘Life Choices Over Life Style’ 2016


How did you arrive at art?

I did a foundation course and said to
myself, I’ll decide after this whether I’ll continue with art or study an academic subject. The course was really good; I did it at Leeds College of Art and then came back to London, where I studied Illustration and painting at Camberwell.


 Why’d you swap?
 Regardless of being in illustration I would always paint.  I was always a messy painter and liked working on large scales but my briefs at uni were all ‘work on this scale measurement’ and it had to fit such a small criteria. I felt so against that and knew it was time to switch it up. I’d made a nice illustrative portfolio by then so used that to apply for a different course.


Photo: Anna Sampson

Tell us more about your work!

My work is mostly figurative and portraiture based. Life drawing was great- I did that at secondary school all the way throughout foundation and degree. It was almost like, how can I apply what I do in life drawing to my own personal projects? With that I started messing around with proportions and colours of the human body- like taking the skin tone and changing it for outrageous colours. I’ve always really liked typography as well, so I always try to incorporate writing into my work.


 Your work feels quite sad..

Yeah completely. I mean, creating happy work never existed, it’s never been a thing. The artists I’m inspired by have never made ‘happy’ work. Like Francis Bacon for example, all the subjects in his work are quite gruesome and his colour tones are usually dark.


‘Lost On The Block’ 2016 (mixed media)


Who else inspires you?

Two years ago in Amsterdam I first saw Marlene Dumas’s work. Instantly I loved it and started incorporating her style into my own work. Obviously I didn’t want to imitate it, just use it as a means to try out new mediums and ideas. Warhol’s early pop art works have always inspired me; I love the repetition in his work.  Raymond Petittbon is amazing too.  He uses Indian ink, acrylic and oils but in quite a conformed, conservative way.


Is there a limit to how much of yourself you’d reveal in your work?

I don’t think you should ever limit yourself. If you limit yourself that defeats the point.


Photo: Anna Sampson

Where are ya based?

I was living in Southwark whilst studying and now I’ve moved back home to North London. When I work, it’s either in my Mom’s garage or my friend’s studio in Camden. If I’m working on something not so big ill do it in the garage and if it is big I’ll do it at my friend’s.

He’s moving so I’m actually going to be looking for a new studio space next year.


How do you handle the transition of school to the ‘real world’?

The only way you deal with it is being chucked into the deep end. When you finish uni you feel like a small fish in a big pond but  you’ve just got to keep producing work and you’ll find a way. Always be open to new ideas and just go with it. Networking is really key too, I’ve done a hell of a lot since university just by throwing myself into new situations.
‘Chasing Bees In Heaven’ 2016 (mixed media on glass)


 Do you have a routine?


It’s important to do a 9-5 day in the studio but that often changes.  Some days I’ll wake up and won’t have any motivation to paint or any ideas so I take a step back and then paint through the night. When I do that I wake up later. (laughs) So no, there’s no routine but I try and get going no later than 9. Getting my beauty sleep is important because if not I’m moody and hate the world.


Explain the fashion aspect of your work..

Clothing and material on canvas has been such a big interest of mine, but so has the material I wear equally as much . I decided to just combine the two and I’ve been quite careful .. i don’t want to turn it into a franchise where I’m mass producing .. everything I’m producing are one off pieces. If someone asked me to then produce the same thing I’d consider but it’d have to be slightly different. If I start printing the same thing onto clothes I’d get titled a fashion artist and that’s not what I am. I’d be down for collaborations with limited pieces but that’s about it.


Photo: Alexander James


Surprise me with a hidden talent!

When I was younger I used to be a “youth professional kick boxer”. It would probably surprise most because I’m not built for a boxer at the moment but I used to win some titles back in the day. Be careful people!(laughs)


What’s the story with the dog paintings?

Super drunk at a bar , I got talking to this guy about our mutual love for dogs. He said he’d commission me to come and paint his Alsatian and Doberman. I never had a dog growing up so I  jumped on that project immediately, plus Dobermans are my favourite. With dogs being a love of mine I’ll always include them in my work.
Untitled‘ 2015


What can we expect next?
A few exciting things are in the pipeline. There’s an exhibition on September 1st at The Carousel and one in October, (dates tbc). Then there’s a group show in September as well, hopefully, but I’m not too sure after today..


Keep updated with exhibition dates and art>
Instagram: alexanderjamesx
Posted by:Never Pure, Rarely Simple

Unexpected stories from London and Paris.

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