Our current exhibition is Tempest by Max Bellamy & James Robinson. This exhibition showcases some of the outcomes from Max & Jame's time as William Hodges Fellows. You can find out more about the exhibition here, or come and see it at Bellamys Gallery until the 7th December.
To provide some context to James wonderful paintings, Max conducted an interview with him.
Max: You mentioned that the work in this show perhaps represents a floating period in your practice, and that you had since 'arrived' at a place you're more comfortable with. Where is your work now, and how did this work help you get there?
James: What I’m doing now is fundamentally uncomfortable and I have accepted that. It is uncomfortable in myself and in the work. I suppose I have owned some of that (uncomfortableness) being a voice of art, an emotion embodied, artist as agent of feeling and response. Call and response if you like.
The work (in this show) is a bit more floaty because it is closer to feelings, or an attempt at showing more of a meditative aspect of my character, a lighter side of my being. I regarded them as tests towards a larger series in the same vain. I did make larger ones that were shown elsewhere.
M: On that note, what place do meditations have within making art for you?
J: It’s just simply that duality of artists going into themselves, yet projecting physical objects out. You can lose yourself so much in that process, both psychologically and spiritually. I have been particularly veracious in my hungry-ghost-seeking-outside myself for purpose, meaning, role, job… all these things that are normal. Meditation is an attempt at returning to a source of all creativity.
M: You have an affinity with nature, and often go on tramps. How do your experiences in the wilderness inform your art making?
J: In lots and lots of ways. The raw creativity of the land, the forces of geology and time. Feeling a little bit more at one with the scheme of things and the big picture of time. Also it is the journey. I think every work or different studio, or body of work is a journey. Often it can be very taxing in that you don’t initially always know what it is about, where it is supposed to go and whether it is worth it. It can be quite doubtful and insecure. Whereas with a tramp, it is fairly linear, there is a known outcome. It is a journey of acceptance, you more or less arrive at your destination and it is very simple. I enjoy that instinctive simplicity. I suppose I am trying to contradict my own mind and ego.
I try to draw from an organic kind of creativity with natural forms, I very much want to emulate something that is non-human, or at least try to. I think that comes through being, both being in nature and being nature. It is a form of processing without judging or editing. My art is essentially a human response to being. It is a philosophical thing that isn’t academic, it is actual.
M: Your work can be very personal, honest (brutally at times), and perhaps even cathartic. This extreme openness is very brave and has a vulnerability to it. How do you navigate the realities of opening yourself up so much through art?
J: That’s a nice question. I think it is just that I am a bit of a depressive. I am probably quite over sensitive, take myself too seriously. Things build up, and then arrange. It is kind of therapeutic in a sense. I know that everyone goes through hardship and I want to make a difference by using my own experience, otherwise art is a bit of a language game… you know, just a mental thing. I think human experience is richer than that and that we’ve got to own our own personal histories. Be it joy or revelation or pain. The acceptance and processing of suffering I suppose. In a way I am trying to talk to myself about who I used to be. I keep going back to trapped parts of my own life; try to give voice to something that may not always be mine. If we are talking about hurt stuff, I always think about other people. One person’s pain is everybody’s pain. There is an empathy thing going on.
I am trying to distance myself from it a bit though. In the studio now I am trying to make the personal more abstracted. Trying to be more honest about it.
M: I was interested in your time as an ISCP studio resident in NYC and the distaste that came with that mega-city experience. I wonder how that experience compares with your current, more rural residency both in terms of where you like being but also which place is most conducive to making work?
J: I don’t think there is very much that is safe about human culture at the moment, and you can’t really get away from it anywhere. It is critical do-or-die generational stuff. Whether we call it neoliberal capitalism, empire, military industrial complex or consumerism… whatever word we use, I want to live in a community and a culture that has tolerance, kindness, happiness, health and love. That is where I want to live. The machine is pretty much everything. A lot of my art feels like it is in response to the overwhelming reality of where are at as a civilization on the planet, unsustainability, suicide, ignorance, evil. All of these fundamental things that we are all a part of, whether we want to be or not.
I suppose owning my own shadow in my own work is about all I can do, at least as a symbol as an artist. New York or Berlin or Dunedin, the patterns are the same. I am pretty heavy about that shit, because you cant get away from it. I keep getting completely terrorized by what indigenous people the planet over have experienced and still do experience. I suppose I essentially I’m seeking some kind of legitimacy for my own experience.
M: I love the term ‘owning my own shadow’
J: Well, yea.. at least trying to.
M: Maybe holding hands.