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ALEXANDER JAMES

‘OF FORM/COMBINATION’

05.06. – 05.07.2014  


Artist Statement   “Clouds have become weirdly permanent in the age of global warming. The Anthropocene, an altogether new geological age proposed by atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, suggests a new time scale that directly follows the Holocene and begins with the industrial revolution. The Anthropocene suggests a long present that runs from the late 18th Century to present day. A new sense of time emerges, where we dwell in the same geological time scale as the Romantic painters, who presented atmospheric images coinciding with the industrial revolution. Today, this scientific concept has collapsed the Romantic notion of abyssal nature and human subjectivity; we are presented with a constructed/manufactured atmosphere with human as nature and nature as human. There is an erasure of the symbolic threshold of the sublime as presented by the Romantics, destabilising the traditional notions of the sublime in nature. For this work, I am using photography as a means to discover the sky’s own specific and complex way of expressing time. Forms, fixed, not entirely natural and not entirely human. By attaching titles that allude to a human component and including portraits of rocks and clouds, I wish to place artist and viewer in the midst of the contemporary atmosphere.” Alexander James

 


‘Combination, as seen from mountain peak’ (diptych), 2014, Archival Pigment Prints, 50cm x 100cm, framed, edition of 5 + 1 a.p., $2,500 (previous) ‘Cumulus Attacked by a Contrary Wind #2’, (detail) 2012, Archival Pigment Prints, 130 x 101 cm, framed, edition of 6 + 2 a.p., $2,900 (opposite)

Terms of sale of all works shown: 10% deposit on reservation. Balance on collection. Prices as of June 2014. All prices listed may change without notice. All prices include GST.


‘Plume Cumulus’, Disturbed by Electricity (diptych), 2012, Archival Pigment Prints,180cm x 300cm, framed, edition of 5 + 1 a.p., $8,900

Terms of sale of all works shown: 10% deposit on reservation. Balance on collection. Prices as of June 2014. All prices listed may change without notice. All prices include GST.


‘Nefoscopio 1’, (in collaboration with Richard Healey-Finlay) 2014, Hot rolled mild steel, walnut, dark mirror, travel case, 35cm x 35cm x 22cm, edition of 3 + 1 a.p., $3,500 (opposite)

Terms of sale of all works shown: 10% deposit on reservation. Balance on collection. Prices as of June 2014. All prices listed may change without notice. All prices include GST.


‘Cumulus’, Broken after travelling a considerable distance (triptych), 2014, Archival Pigment Prints, 120cm x 288cm, framed, edition of 5 + 1 a.p., $6,900 (following)


‘Rocks at Rest #3’, 2014, Archival Pigment Print, 70cm x 56cm, framed, edition of 5 + 1 a.p., $1,800 ‘Rocks at Rest #10’, 2014, Archival Pigment Print, 70cm x 56cm, framed, edition of 5 + 1 a.p., $1,800

Terms of sale of all works shown: 10% deposit on reservation. Balance on collection. Prices as of June 2014. All prices listed may change without notice. All prices include GST.


Terms of sale of all works shown: 10% deposit on reservation. Balance on collection. Prices as of June 2014. All prices listed may change without notice. All prices include GST.


ALEXANDER JAMES b.1976   Education   Master of Fine Arts, University of Sydney (2012) Bachelor of Visual Arts with First Class Honours, Australian National University (2005) Bachelor of Arts (Anthropology) Australian National University (2005)    Solo Exhibitions 2014 ‘Of Form/Combination’, DOMINIK MERSCH GALLERY, Sydney 2013 Weathersounds, Photoville NYC, Brooklyn, New York City 2013 Weathersounds (carpark), Alaska Projects, Sydney 2012 Weathersounds, Australian National University, SofA Gallery, Canberra 2012 Weathersounds, James Dorahy Project Space, Sydney  2010 summer 1835, Gaffa Gallery, Sydney 2009 The twilight of Mr Kemp, Canberra Contemporary Art Space 2008 To White, The Front Gallery, Canberra 2006 Tracing, Queensland Centre for Photography, Brisbane Selected Group Exhibitions 2014 Frühlings Salon, Galerie Pavlova, Berlin 2013 Josephine Unrich and Win Schubert Photography Award (finalist), Gold Coast City Gallery 2013 In the Project, DNA Projects, Sydney 2012 Cumulus Attacked by a Contrary Wind, General Store for Contemporary Art, Sydney 2012 Finalist, Marrickville Contemporary Art Prize, Sydney 2012 Melbourne Art Fair, Melbourne 2012 The Open Door, Redland Art Gallery, Brisbane      2012 Open Studios, Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris  2012 Mountains and Valleys, James Dorahy Project Space, Sydney 2011 Toxicity, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney  2011 Plein Air Photographic Prize, NSW Parliament House 2011 Fifth, James Dorahy Project Space, Sydney  2011 A Shadow of its former self, At the Vanishing Point, Sydney 2010 Walking Under the Land, Queensland Centre for Photography  2009 The Lake, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney  2009 Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art, Australian National University 2008 Walking Under the land, SofA Gallery, Australian National University. (Part of Vivid National Festival of Photography) Canberra


2008 Memoirs, State Library of Queensland (Queensland Festival of Photography), Brisbane 2007 In Cold Light, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne 2007 WildSide, Huw Davis Gallery, Canberra 2006 Daryl Hewson Photographic collection Exhibition and Book Launch, Queensland Centre for Photography, Brisbane 2005 Hatched 2005, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Perth 2005 Dust, National Museum of Australia, Canberra   Selected Grants/Residencies/Media/Awards 2012 University of Sydney – Power Institute Artist Residency, Cite International des Arts, Paris 2011-12 Casual Lecturer, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney  2010 Australian Post Graduate Award, The University of Sydney 2010 Post Graduate Research Support Grant, The University of Sydney 2009 Finalist, Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art, Australian National University 2009 Published the twilight of Mr Kemp: Landscapes 1797-1897 2007 New Work Grant, Arts ACT 2005 Australian National University School of Art Award   Collections Artbank, Private Collections  

 


Of Form/Combination It is a melancholy fact that in time our lives will have vanished almost without trace. After death, we will likely be remembered for a few generations. But this posthumous survival, even at best, will be relatively short-term. Perhaps something of us—our little unremembered acts of kindness—will have effects that cascade on for a few generations more. And yet inevitably, if you look far enough into the future, into the long run that stretches out indefinitely ahead, then everything we are, everything we do and everything we care about will have disappeared, given enough time.   For almost all who have ever lived, and almost certainly for us, this process occurs quite quickly, in less than one hundred years. Some practices and values take longer, of course. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that “tradition means giving a vote to that most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.” What Chesterton neglected to add was that traditions also die out. Even democracy, which is itself a kind of tradition, will one day be forgotten. This will probably not happen in just a few hundred years. After all, democracy is an enduring tradition: the name and the practice it names are already nearly 2,500 years old. But it seems less probable that democracy will still be spoken of at much more distant dates—in around 100,000 years, for example. Chesterton’s vast democracy is in fact made up of the unremembered, those whose lives have disappeared into oblivion, taking with the traditions that once leant those lives meaning. And one day, we too will belong to that silent majority of the dead, along with nearly everything we value: every contested principle, every cherished loved one, every transcendent moment of beauty. Religions promise longer prospects. But at least as concerns the material Earth, the only world in which we find our happiness or not at all, we will not be remembered.   At a geophysical level, however, our actions today will indeed live on, precipitating out in around 100,000 years as a thin layer of submarine limestone. This is how the oceanic carbon sink works: it is the ultimate destination of the carbon I emit every time I get in my car, or write something on a computer, or indeed do almost anything that I tend to do every day. None of these acts is particularly memorable in itself: they will all likely be forgotten in days and weeks and months, let alone in centuries. And yet they will also be inscribed as many tons of calciferous deposits on the ocean floor: my permanent trace in the geology of the planet, my earthwork. In 2000, Paul Crutzen, atmospheric chemist and Nobel Prize-winner, proposed the concept of the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch, in which humans are collectively reshaping the geosystem. The Anthropocene gives a name to this strange paradox: the fact that our everyday lives, however unimportant, are also now as permanent as stone. The Anthropocene makes us responsible for our fossilized future: it makes us dwell in the unimaginable time of the dead. By destroying the possibility of transience, of ephemerality, and of traceless disappearance in time, it forces a change of perspective on us.   Western culture has a record of generating and responding to temporal shocks like this—to jarring disjunctions of drastically discrepant measures of time. In the final years of the eighteenth century, for instance, natural philosophers—Hutton, Buffon, Cuvier and others—suggested that the geological timescales of the earth massively exceeded those of human history, and indeed potentially stretched back far behind the origin of the human species.


These new ideas of vast inhuman spans of time, of temporal stretches inconceivable in the terms of human experience, helped inspire Romanticism’s intense interest in imagining the world without us. The poet Percy Shelley had been reading Buffon, for example, in the days and weeks leading up to the composition of his great Romantic lyric, Mont Blanc, which concludes with a question posed to the mountain: And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea, If to the human mind’s imaginings Silence and solitude were vacancy? Shelley drew on natural history in Mont Blanc to imagine a universe of destruction, of entropy, in which human consciousness had no special significance or importance. The world suddenly appeared much older, and much more alien. It was indifferent to the collective destiny of the human species, existing in another time, an inhuman time. Much of the literature and art of the Romantic period can be understood as a coming to terms with this newly ancient world. The Anthropocene replays this Romantic shock of the old in reverse. What it requires us to see is that humans now also dwell in this geological, inhuman time. It requires us to think about our role in the deep future, and about the new permanence of our transient actions. Photography can help in this task, because photography shows that objects are processes in slow motion. It can do this quite directly—a burst balloon is the bullet passing through it—but also in more reflective and less obvious ways. Making objects by slowing processes down is in fact how all photographs come into being. The medium of photography works by slowing down the action of light: it slows it down so that we can see this action, so that it is inscribed, permanently visible.   The early work of Alexander James revisited colonial landscapes of loss—sites of historical drownings in southeastern New South Wales—to capture images haunted by absence and lack, explorations in darkness visible. More recently, he has been photographing clouds, reworking Romanticism’s discovery of the aesthetics of atmosphere for our own climatically troubled times. “Cloud” is an old word in the English language, a word originally related to “clod.” “Cloud” once meant a mass of rock, or a hill. So in a sense, to talk of clouds is to talk of airborne rocks, of mountains hanging in the sky. In an age of carbon cycles this curious etymology takes on a strange and ironic new truth. Rocks, quite literally, are clouds slowed down. Alexander James’s new work traces out formal combinations of these different relative speeds and densities. It deals in the convertibility of processes into objects, using the medium of photography to picture forth our entanglement with times that exceed our grasp, that stretch out beyond the limits of our experience. His rocks appear light—floating, suspended, wanderers each as lonely as a cloud. But they are also heavy with the geological gravity of our human atmosphere.   Dr. Thomas H. Ford University of Melbourne

 


DOMINIK MERSCH GALLERY: ALEXANDER JAMES 'Of Form/Combination'