Two Figures

James, Merlin
Merlin James’s paintings include land and seascapes, figures, architecture, interiors and erotic scenes. His works interrogate traditional approaches to painting, exploring style and genre and often actively integrating the physicality of the canvas, stretcher or even picture frame into the composition. He frequently incorporates dust, ash, debris and other material into the surface. Sometimes reworked over long periods, his paintings tend towards the enigmatic, rich in metaphor and layered imagery. Two Figures, 2020, was however made quickly. It shows two painters at work, apparently in a studio. The scene seems disjointed: the interior space is not clearly defined and the figures have their backs to one another; it could almost be a mirror image. James has commented that the foreground figure is like a marionette, while the other is like a puppeteer. However he has described a ‘slight amnesia’ in making this work, as though it materialised of its own accord. In this exploration of painting, identity and vulnerability, the viewer inevitably brings their own interpretation to the picture.
  • Artwork Details: 124.5 x 174.6cm
  • Edition:
  • Material description: Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
  • Credit line: © the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
  • Theme:
  • Medium: Painting
  • Accession number: ACC28/2020



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