anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light
 

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

british mixed-media artist anthony james had set to open his first solo exhibition at opera gallery in london this month — however, due to the gallery’s temporary closure in the wake of COVID-19, opera presents the exhibition virtually, and designboom offers a digital exhibition tour. best known for his infinity LED icosahedron sculptures constructed out of glass vitrines, james showcases his latest editions to the series, including a bright nickel octahedron, a solar black dodecagon, a 2.5 meter high crystal, and a triacontahedron. 

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light
all images by opera gallery

 

 

designboom spoke with james about these pieces presented at opera gallery, and how he has developed as an artist since his breakthrough into the contemporary art world in 2008 with his ‘kalos thanatos’ and ‘birch’ series — results of burning down his ferrari F335 spyder.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

designboom (DB): what aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your creative principles and philosophies?

 

anthony james (AJ): as a child I used to love swimming in the thames and sometimes I’d swim against the tide, and sometimes I’d let it take me. being a child in the 70’s and 80’s in england — there was a lot of chaos. you know how mother nature self corrects – adapts – heals? maybe I was drawn to formalism and minimalistic art because in many ways it is inverted chaos. maybe it’s my way of creating order.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: what creative strategies do you adopt when working? 

 

AJ: you start with a gesture and the materials are about helping you find the clearest and most direct way to communicate it. I like using vanguard and illustrious materials. I like the archival such as metals and glass. I use high technology and sometimes centuries old techniques. I like industrial process. whatever it is – it’s all in service of the gesture.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: what can you tell us about the process in your work? 

 

AJ: crystallization plays a huge part in my work. it happens when molecules gather together as they attempt to become stable. we took this concept found in nature and used computer programming to mimic naturally forming polycrystalline shapes. in this way, we are allowing for an organic digitization to take form which parallels crystals much closer than being man made or designed. much like the natural process, we have created the right environment for a crystal to form and even allow for external influences to cause variations.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: how has living in los angeles influenced your art-making, compared to when you first created the ‘birch series’ in new york? 

 

AJ: I’ve always been a formalist, a minimalist. you asked about my ‘art-making’ – I don’t differentiate myself from my artwork. I made my first ‘birch series’ while I was in new york where I was exploring the theatricality and monumentality of minimalism. in los angeles, just by location, the work is more light and space and finish fetish, however wherever I go there I am. it’s all there – all ways. I just keep adding nuance.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: how do you view the evolution of your work overall?

 

AJ: you can’t really escape yourself. you’re always on the same thing. the artwork may present differently, but there is always an underlying signature theme. for me, everything is life / death / birth / rebirth somehow. it’s not an intention, but it all comes back to one source. burning a ferrari and stuff — it’s all instinctual. now I look back at it and ‘beautiful death’ is more of a concept than a sentence. it’s bizarre. you can’t escape your own destiny which is what the iliad is about.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: what kind of experience do you want audiences to have when viewing the works at opera gallery?

 

AJ: I’ve tried to visually demonstrate the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small — the cosmos and the divinity inside oneself. I’ve tried to give infinity an objective existence by making it tactile. my intention is for people to witness infinity, divinity, within themselves. the work is by its very nature pluralistic and multi-layered inviting a depth of viewing outward as much as a depth of viewing inward.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: do you have any plans on moving away from using lights and glass vitrines in the future? 

 

AJ: I have done so in the past. morphic fields, a show I did in germany, consisted of 24 bronze and limestone sculptures. my work has been referred to as relics from the future, but the future isn’t here yet and, thankfully, I don’t reference now because now is disposable.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: do you still find yourself to be a minimalist? 

 

AJ: I have a more scientific and spiritual lens that I use for considering myself. it doesn’t necessarily align with a set of criteria. I understand and respect the value of labeling – it’s gives us a sense of organization and order, but you can also understand why I might recoil from it. I spoke earlier about being a child in england in the 70’s and 80’s … about the chaos … I wonder if all the order I can tolerate exists in my work. in it, there’s an intersection of simplicity and complexity that I find doesn’t benefit from description or language. maybe it’s somewhat deceptive in that regard.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: if you could crash another car today, which would it be? 

 

AJ: I don’t want to tell the same joke twice.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: what are you currently fascinated by, and how is it feeding into your artistic practice? 

 

AJ: I’m teaching myself to cook. my success ratio is…not great. I eat it all because I use great ingredients, but maybe I’ll stick to sculpture.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: what boundaries are you trying to break yourself?

 

AJ: I value encounters that are honest and authentic so I can be unapologetically direct in this pursuit.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

DB: what goal are you working towards right now?

 

AJ: I’ve always been interested in distilling things down to their essence and that includes my concept of self. I’m just trying to get out of my own way. by that I mean, releasing assumptions I may have held onto regarding my past and future. my faith gives me freedom. I’ve always had faith in a collective consciousness so I just want to download from there.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

designboom (DB): do these new works reach viewers universally?

 

anthony james (AJ): since my work isn’t heavily tied to a particular time or specific geographical location, the work transcends. I sometimes consider the pieces relics from the future and I am fascinated by the response I get from communities around the world. even communities online like instagram. we don’t need to speak the same verbal language because the work is, I hope, speaking a universal, cosmic, language that sits in our shared collective consciousness.

anthony james on capturing 'the colossally vast and the infinitesimally small' through light

 

 

project info:

 

artist: anthony james

gallery: opera gallery london

virtual tour: here

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