Merlin James approaches the history and legacy of painting with a highly considered and unconventional viewpoint. As commented by Artforum’s Sherman Sam, his work “has sought to rigorously problematise the experience of painting while simultaneously deepening its formal language”. Generally small in scale, his works depict diverse subject matter including vernacular architecture, riverside views, post-industrial landscapes, empty interiors, mysterious figures and scenes of sexual intimacy. His ‘frame paintings’ on gauzy, sheer material treat the structure of the picture frame and stretcher bar as an integral part of the work, while works on canvas might be collaged with tufts of hair or sawdust, distressed, pierced, cropped or heavily overpainted. Also an erudite and thoughtful critic, James has a deep engagement with the history of art and this knowledge shapes and informs his practice. His works refine and renew many of painting’s most time-honoured concerns – genre and narrative, pictorial space and expressive gesture, the emotive resonance of colour and texture.
Merlin James lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland.
Merlin James has been the subject of solo exhibitions at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Kunstverein Freiberg, Germany; Parasol Unit, London; New York Studio School; Vitamin Arte Contemporanea, Turin; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh; the National Museum of Wales and Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin. Recent solo exhibitions include OCT Boxes Art Museum, Shunde; OCT Art & Design Gallery, Shenzhen (both 2018) and CCA, Glasgow (2016). Recent group exhibitions include Willumsens Museum (Online, 2021); The Levinsky Gallery, Plymouth (2020); Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds (2019); Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra (2018) and Artspace, Sydney. In 2007, James represented Wales at the 52nd Venice Biennale.