Study For A Portrait 4 Splash


Music for the gift

James Richards’ interest lies in the possibility of the private amidst the chaos of quotidian media. His work makes use of a growing bank of material that includes cinema, works by other artists, camcorder footage, murky late night TV and archival research. Means of producing and displaying images are central to his methodology and he unpacks the image as both subject and object, unfolding ways in which fragments of the present can connect with those of the past, the hidden with the visible, and the sentient with the physical.

Richards’ presentation includes Migratory Motor Complex (2017), a six-channel electro-acoustic installation that explores the capacity of sound to render artificial spaces and locate sonic and melodic events within them. Woven throughout the piece are re-occurring vocal and musical motifs that have been developed in collaboration with Kirsten Evans and Samuel Williams, students of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The work has then been tuned in situ, with Richards reacting to the acoustic contingencies of the site as he creates a cinematic and multi-sensory experience — an arrangement of vivid emotional cues to be navigated subjectively.

What weakens the flesh is the flesh itself (2017) is a video made with collaborator Steve Reinke. The starting point for the work is a series of images found in the private archive of Albrecht Becker — a production designer, photographer and actor imprisoned by the Nazis for being homosexual. Amongst pictures of friends and photographs taken whilst serving in World War II is a collection of staged self-portraits that reveal an obsessive commitment to body modification, tattooing and his own image: duplicated, repeated and reworked with collage and darkroom revision.

This extraordinary collection of images serves as the backbone for the video, an extended meditation on the archive, photography and the body. The double self-portrait is redoubled, repeatedly — a mise en abyme; the self is lost as the flesh proliferates, escaping death, returning as a thin image resonant with desire and possibility.

Rushes minotaur (2017) is an installation of inkjet prints that draw on two distinct images: a close- up of crumbling skin from a medical book, and the tarpaulin-shielded façade of a shop. Cut together and then rescanned, these simple visual cues and combinations of found images are disrupted and reinstated through a scanning process that stretches and stacks them into different combinations.

A publication, present throughout the exhibition, contains a text by the writer Chris McCormack. The narrative moves between the intimate and the scientific and reflects upon the breaking of the male voice. Shifting between first and third person, the text meets Richards’ exhibition at an oblique angle, like his images that oscillate between unfettered documentary and a more neurotic interior territory. 

News from Venice

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19.07.2017 / Venice reflections

It’s been a month and a half since I returned from my stint as an invigilator in Venice at James Richard’s show, Music for the gift, at the Cymru yn Fenis Wales. Since then I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the experience and how it’s changed my perspective going into my final year as a fine art student.

16.07.2017 / Day 2.

I had a very interesting discussion last night with my fellow invigilators about the separation between Art and Design at the Biennale. We discussed the design element of exhibitions, mainly curatorship- which can make or break the work.

In the last few years, anecdotally I've observed an incredible animosity between artists and designers, which makes me very sad. There is enough division in the world already. It also seems extremely strange to me that both parties tend to be extremely accepting and emotionally intelligent people, but harbour this uncharacteristic resentment for one another. If the creative world cannot accept the value of varied means of expression, thinking and collaboration then I seriously doubt our ability to impact wider society. What you can't do in your own back garden can not be done on a wider scale. I've observed this type of thinking being damaging to students and early career artists, exclusion is something we will all have to experience as people who have chosen to pursue creative careers, we do not need it from one another.

I don't necessarily understand the work of designers, just as I don't understand the work of nuclear physicists- but I respect their work and how they so directly impact the quality of life of those around them. Equally, I can only hope they see the value of art in that it is, before anything else, a space in which people can think, reflect, challenge their views and leave with a new perspective. I'm passionate about the idea that this type of exposure builds a more emotionally developed, compassionate and reflective society. It is a more subtle impact, something that can often feel at odds with the urgency of change. I'm learning to have a bit of patience with that. 

I digress, there is a lot to be learnt from this years Venice Biennale and the marriage between art and curation (design). I've observed a beautiful marriage between the two, not only in the galleries but in the city itself. 

13.07.2017 / The loss of self is regularly documented, and the ‘self’ is regularly lost.

Writing about the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron, I saw her subjects as erased by her touch, dominated by her aesthetic. I projected onto the deliberately out-of-focus images, that the subjects would have resisted, that they could have bartered, been coerced and, eventually, brought for their image.

09.07.2017 / Exploring Venice

On the day after I arrived I went off to explore. I had just finished my first day invigilating so I went off for a gander around Venice to familiarise myself.

08.07.2017 / Correct The Line Before You Rub It Out

Hello lovely people of the internet,

I have a proposition for you, it is as follows. 
(A bit of background first)...
In a few days I will be leaving Cardiff to work as part of a team on the Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice  Invigilator Plus programme. Chapter in Cardiff, the curating gallery, selected and trained us as part of a pilot programme between The Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff School of Art and Design. We will be supervising, monitoring and maintaining Wales’s exhibition, James Richards: Music for the gift at La Biennale di Venezia as well as interacting with the public. 
The Invigilator Plus participants are being mentored and supported by G39 as part of their UNIT(e) programme to aid our ongoing professional development. 
(Here's the good bit)...
I will be in Venice for 26 days. I am looking for 26 participants to engage with me by post in a collaborative series of artworks. I will be making a piece of work for you, based on my experiences of the art/people/places that I come across while in Venice but with you as an individual in mind. I am interested in art in a gallery environment and how our experience of the art world is affected and censored by social/economic/academic and private boundaries. You can give me as little or as much information about yourself as you'd like, whether that information is personal, professional or anything in between. I will then post you the artwork and ask you to modify it in some way before returning it to me.
I will be sending you an A5 sized image but there are no rules as to what you can do to it. You are welcome to digitise/paint/collage/deconstruct/burn/write about the work in any way your heart desires. 
I am not limiting the collaboration by only engaging with visual artists and would encourage writers, designers, ceramicists, filmmakers, curators, academics- (people) to be involved. 
If you are interested (which I hope that you are) or know someone who might be send me a message so that we can talk logistics.