Merlin James

4650 W Washington Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90016
Feb 12, 12 PM - 5 PM — ends Mar 18, 2023
Chris Sharp Gallery is pleased to present the first Los Angeles solo exhibition of the Glasgow-based painter, Merlin James.

Merlin James is known for making seemingly heterogenous, mostly small-scale paintings, which present everything from architecture to landscape to scenes of sexual intimacy to so-called ‘pure’ abstraction. What he makes is indivisible from the way he makes it, starting from how the basic stretcher is put together, to the kinds of ‘support’ used, and the materials applied. These are liable to feature – in addition to paint – such things as human hair, ash and sawdust from the artist’s studio floor.
The work is characterized by a consummate synthesis of James’s expansive engagement in the history of western painting with his own personal production. If there is anything seemingly anachronistic about his fetishization of the history of painting, it is because he conceives the latter not as an inevitable linear progression but rather as a florilegium of subjects and objects, supports and marks, styles, genres and imageries, typified as much by omissions and aberrations as by monolithic coherence. His methodology is closer to excavation than construction, the paintings often feeling more discovered or revealed than necessarily built up and cumulative, even if James is paradoxically doing both things at once.
For his exhibition at Chris Sharp Gallery, James will present a broad selection of paintings from the past twenty years, dating as far back as 2004 and up through 2022. The tenor of the work ranges from the moody and elegiac, with depictions of anonymous buildings and landscapes in muted tones, to the more humorous and animated, as in the quasi-abstract portrayal of an airport baggage carousel (the eponymous Arrivals, 2007-08) and small, action-packed abstractions. In every case, a persistent and un-locatable mystery hangs over all, as if everything – the object, image and even the paint itself – were issuing from a great distance while being there right in front of our eyes.

Merlin James (b. 1960, Cardiff) is a painter based in Glasgow, Scotland. He received his Honors BA at the Central School of Art, London, in 1982, and his MA in painting at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1986. James has also written extensively on art, and curated exhibitions, several at his own space 42 Carlton Place, in Glasgow. James has exhibited within the UK and internationally since the 1990s. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Anton Kern Gallery, New York (2022), the Philadelphia Art Alliance (2022), Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York (2020), and Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2021). His work is included in the collections of the Tate, London, UK; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France; Dallas Museum of Art and San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas; Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, China; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; and OCT Boxes Museum, Shunde, China. The artist’s first major monograph, published by Durer Editions, has just been released.