Thursday, 25 April 2013


I never seem to go to private views anymore; they always clash with the children's supper time and bath time, and generally by the evening I'm shattered from a day spent playing with lego and the last thing I feel like doing is going in to St. James' or Mayfair or worse (because it's further) East London.  And what if I don't actually like the work once I get there, or what if there are only three paintings and some incomprehensible video work that needs to be listened to through headphones to understand and the headphones are always busy?  Obviously if it's Ai Wei Wei at the Halcyon or Anish Kapoor at the Lisson or Subodh Gupta at Hauser & Wirth etc. I'll make the effort, alternatively I'll go if the artist or gallerist is a really good friend or if I've been invited to the post-opening dinner - but otherwise, unless it's literally around the corner from my house, I'll see the show when I'm passing one day.

Last night's show, however, scored two out four of the exception requisites.  So I went.  And I'm really, really pleased that I did.

Alexander James, Glass

This was one of the first images that I saw - beautiful, right?  Apparently it's been in Another Magazine, but Another is not one of my regular reading choices, so I can't pretend to have seen it.  The exhibition itself is in a sort of warehouse building, so think gigantic rooms, concrete floors, and industrial lighting.  Green industrial lighting, to be exact.  It felt a bit like being in a multi story carpark lit by Dan Flavin; the artist, Alexander James, said that he'd been thinking Bladerunner.  The works are huge, and have a luminosity that it's just not possible to see on screen.

Alexander James, Morpho Amathonte 0005

Alexander James, Isis Bound

Alexander James, Untitled 2956

James (who incidentally is really quite attractive) is heavily influenced by the 17th century Dutch masters who frequently depicted such still-life arrangements in oils, the cut flowers, dead animals and butterflies representing the transience and fragility of life.  These works are photographs, obviously, but they're photographs with a difference: everything is placed in a tank of water, and then a single frame is taken.   James is responsible for the entire process; he doesn't just take the photograph, he also breeds the butterflies and grows the roses and makes the tank for the water and develops the end result.  And then he destroys everything but the image and - and this is my favourite aspect of his work - the butterflies, which are still alive. It turns out that if you lower the temperature enough, a butterfly will go into a natural coma.  The water is set at the same temperature, the butterfly goes in  for as long as necessary before being being brought out and having it's temperature raised sufficiently to enable it to wake up, absolutely fine.  Which is lucky, as James refers to them as children and grandchildren.  The work below, which is probably my favourite, took, James explained, seven months, in order to grow the right tulips of the right colour, have the right butterfly as a butterfly (and not a caterpillar, which would be quite a different look) at the same time as the tulips were on their way out - "and then it all came together, just for a minute in time, and I took my one frame.  And then I smashed it to pieces."

Alexander James, Grace

It occurs to me that the exhibition would be great for a first date - or any date, really.  It's practically dark, so very flattering, and there's an underlying edginess to the location and setting which, combined with these works of pure beauty, provide perfect date setting (or at least, perfect date setting for me.)  And if you don't have a date, I think that the artist himself is single (and hot, as previously mentioned) - he's hetero, in case you were wondering - and he says he's going to be there every day.  

Alexander James Intersection is on until the 23rd May, at the Studio Building, 21 Evesham Street, W11 4AJ.  It's not immediately obvious where it is on the street - go through the gates that look like you shouldn't go through them, and it's the building on your right.