There is something contained in this body of James’ work, between the delicate material instability and the committed act, which causes me to catch at the exchange of touch and want to stay closely by it. Or should it be the committed materiality and the delicate act? either way it’s a reciprocal act of rubbing, where the one which rubs is also rubbed by, leaving both parties coated and burnished, both grimy and glossy. This is the effect. A glossy grime. A perfect grimey gloss. A crystalline layer of carbon atoms, in some lights a dull, humble grey - but this is graphite, an elemental sibling of diamond, highly conductive and resistant. A conduit for power to rush through. If you run a high electric current through a graphite pencil it combusts, charring the wood yet leaving the graphite rod unchanged. If a certain voltage were to be sent through one of these carbon veneers would it spark, throb with a hot glow, flash bright white with a bang, cause the cotton or linen threads to curl smouldering away? Or singe its smooth wooden host but then, once the volts had died down again, appear from the outside as though nothing had happened – its sheen and patina as ever: fine, morose, glittering/denying that it did so?

Here, graphite, ‘the writing stone’, the erasable trace of the pencil – propositional and communicative - becomes an unbroken coat of mineral. In service of neither word nor mark the graphite as matter ground into a surface still however draws to its object a sense of proposition and can still be legible maybe as a letter. As though the graphite is here a mode of transmitting a gesture or feeling to others - to named recipients. I want to say it still makes a love letter.

* * * 

When the surface of the objects – the wood stretcher-bars, woven canvasses, flesh fingers – become coated in graphite, become with sheen, they become in a number of ways photographic, joining an interaction back and forth between space and light, developing and fixing. As they become light reflective objects, to be photographed, they seem too to have become their silvery selves in black-and-white prints. As they are coated in a shimmery membrane, sensitive and exposed, it is as though the mineral has enabled them to draw with light.

Extract from the essay The Drawing Stone

By Bryony Bodimeade

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Untitled (Agathaidas & Phalanthus), polished graphite on panels in oak frame 160 x 160 x 4 cm

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Touched I, 2016 archival pigment print in artist's frame with graphite finish 29.5 x 33.5 x 3 cm

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Installation view of 'Desire Works', 2017, solo exhibition at Project 78 Gallery,  St Leonard's by Sea UK 

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Installation view of 'Aint Nothing Like The Real thing' solo exhibition at Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art, Knokke Belgium 20 May - 4 July 2017.

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Installation view of 'Desire Works', 2017, solo exhibition at Project 78 Gallery,  St Leonard's by Sea UK 

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Study For Untitled (Achilles & Patroclus) i, 2017, polished graphite on panels, 51 x 50 x 4 cm