Glasgow-based Merlin James’ small architectural paintings invite various associations – domesticity, industry, nostalgia. The mix or alternation of functionality and ornament, and the reference to models or source images, create resonances with the artificial structuring and ‘building’ of the paintings themselves. In The Village Voice, RC Baker compares James’ paintings to an old favorite, Albert York. “Rarely more than two feet on a side, James’s paintings depict various structures absent any activity—a stone viaduct traverses a gorge, muggy light blurring the heavy arches; a twilit office building casts a triangular shadow into a vacant lot. In 2007’s ‘Yellow Roof,’ the bright colors of what might be a carnival attraction have been dryly dragged across the canvas, finding harmony with the gray sky. James achieves real drama by sometimes shifting hues over rough textures, the colors implying one shape, while the underlying surface suggests another form already occupying the space. For inspiration, this Glasgow-based artist uses small-scale models cobbled together from studio detritus, passages cribbed from other painters’ backgrounds, and buildings glimpsed in old photographs. Like Albert Pinkham Ryder (or, more recently, Albert York), James paints scenes that remain compellingly elusive even when you’re looking right at them.”
“Merlin James,” Sikkema Jenkins, New York, NY. Through Jan. 12, 2008.