Switches And Ashes - Anthony James
Some artists are made. Others are never known or long forgotten. Anthony James is the artist of right now. He is hip without even trying. He will hate that sentence. Collectors are gathering and wanting a piece of his abstract sculpture that speaks to the transformations in the world we all sense coming. He is not being “made” as an artist and he is unforgettable. That praise and identity of “it man” is not a goal, for he dismisses the idea that he can or should control the truth he attempts to convey with his abstract sculpture. In fact, he would rather the gesture that is “art” be left alone, perhaps, as he says with part sadness and part disappointment, “The minute we touch truth, we make it dirty.”
Anthony tries to explain why he is a sculptor by telling the story of how he loved boxing when he was younger. He was quite good at it, as he is at most things…a natural. He really does not want me to cite this prowess. As for boxing, “I liked the one-shot-kill of it,” he says with a bit of danger in his tone as he compares it to the strokes that work in painting and sculpture. I managed a few words with this intelligent and seductive artist during some of his needed downtime. Really though, he is creating and thinking about creation all the time. His latest series Icosahedron is selling great guns through Opera Gallery and Anthony is freshly off resounding success in Miami during ArtMiami/ArtBasel and just “done with it all” for the moment, enjoying just “being a human being.” I am sorry to tell you Anthony, but there is nothing “just” anything about the mind and man harnessing perfect, hard surfaces to hold infinite expressions of beauty, nature and creative catastrophe.
Olivia Daane (OD): How did you become interested in visual arts? What made the young Anthony James tick?
Anthony James (AJ): I grew up in Essex. Mum took me to the museum every Sunday. It was the best day of my life every Sunday. She loved the impressionists...Degas, Cézanne. I had no idea of any trauma at that time that this might be soothing. I just loved escaping to the museum.
OD: So there you are staring into Monet’s water lilies and delicious paint, drawing and painting yourself with what was quite a mature hand at an early age. What pushed you into your current medium and genre?
AJ: As an artist I realized there was something different than what was experienced in this art (the representational and expressionist work in the museum). I want a visual display of the spirituality of the cosmos. The divine, the divine within us all.
OD: Your work “Birch Quad,” birch contained in boxes held in aluminum and glass walls, evokes a sense of an interplanetary forest. Forests both truncated and reflecting the infinite. They are beautiful and elegant like a glimpse, a sliver of the multi-dimensional universe, but also seem like an investigation in a lab where we are viewing a specimen of a time long gone. Birch is known as magical material and at one point was used for switches in the classroom to quell spiritual disobedience.
AJ: We are all connected. It is all connected. There is nothing coincidental about the birch tree being used and being hermaphroditic...I like this idea of infinity...because it reminds of the divinity inside us all.
OD: All I can do is use words to talk around a subject and hope the reader lands in some experience of knowing as they add their eyes to the marks. How do you convey the intangible, the spiritual through constructed materials? What do want me to write about your work Anthony?
AJ: All I do is I make an object. I make a philosophy. Art, like boxing, the perfect strike, is only a gesture.
OD: How old are you?
AJ: I am 46. Old enough to be your daddy.
OD: Are you single? Married?
AJ: I am never married and I’m never single.
OD: What do you love?
AJ: I hate the word scarce. I am not in the business of scarcity. The opposite of scarcity is abundance.
He seemed dismayed by this. I reminded him in other dimensions “full” and “empty” co-exist; that energy can be quaquaversal. He let me speak and agreed on the difficulty of definition, containing meaning, stopping time like his initial breakout work of a smashed and burned Ferrari suspended in a box- a beautiful disaster. You can almost hear the metal bending, the tragedy both faked and real. One can sense the alchemy of his materials going from paper to ash and metal to liquid. I have never had an interview like this. The pauses in conversation are as tantalizing as the words. I feel like I want to go on a magic carpet ride with him. He flew on one as he told me how Madonna once invited him over “for a cuddle.” How she and Blondie were the only true loves of one man. He wants normal time home watching a movie in bed.
I asked if there would be popcorn. He said that would be spoiling someone. He also became very quiet and intense as he explained, “When you try to evolve and make yourself better…it is deceitful. You must surrender to your true self.” Anthony is BEING an artist, his true self. His neon Icosahedron, geometric globes of 20 triangular facets: universal, transcendental, calculated orbits embody all that is and ever will be and that cannot in the long run be quantified by human being or artist; yet, they have been captured for us to investigate and bask in by this savant. Surrender.
On his bedside - Christiane Court and Marion Kagerer: Anthony James: Morphic Fields