In association with the Royal Academy of Arts

Converse Highlight of the Week: James Clarkson

The Sheffield-based artist and Converse Emerging Artists Awards entrant on dissembling a Citroën Picasso for his latest expo

James Clarkson, Relief Construction (from a painte
James Clarkson, Relief Construction (from a painted sun as a yellow Sppot) car window glass, exhaust parts, windscreen wiper blades, exploded metal replica of picasso signiture, washer

Sheffield-based artist James Clarkson's work comes from an interest in art history and 'how it is replicated or built upon in the manufacture of more domestic items like furniture or cars'.  Having graduated from Sheffield Hallam in 2010, he is a studio holder at S1 studios and has collaborated with Venice Biennale Silver Lion winning artist, Haroon Mirza. 

I use a lot of found objects, so initially I will spend some time thinking about the materials I am going to use and the references that they could make when placed together. Quite often an object's history or embedded meaning will direct the concept of an exhibition or series of works

In his recent solo exhibition 'A Painted Sun as a Yellow Spot' at the Rod Barton gallery, he selected parts of a Citroën Picasso car, arranging them on the wall in a gesture that investigates a formal language, reflecting on past acts of mark making and fixing them firmly in a material present. The exhibition draws on Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1954 film Le Mystère Picasso and includes the work Relief Construction, made from three of the car windows, windscreen wiper blades, exhaust parts and an exploded metal replica of Picasso's signature, itself referencing the fluid hand of the seminal artist. This 'playful re-contextualisation' becomes 'a means of identifying a certain poetry in the slippages of time'.    

Dazed Digital: How did you get started making art?


James Clarkson:
When I grew up my dad was an antiques dealer, we used to travel round the country most weekends visiting auction houses and antiques fairs. In doing so I think this gave me a really strong concept of objects that had a higher value than the majority of things that I was surrounded by the rest of the time and the notion that something could have more meaning than just its regular function.

What's the point of it all? 

For me it’s the process of understanding the material we surround ourselves with, and its position in a historical context.

DD: Describe your process...

James Clarkson:
I use a lot of found objects, so initially I will spend some time thinking about the materials I am going to use and the references that they could make when placed together. Quite often an object's history or embedded meaning will direct the concept of an exhibition or series of works.

DD: Explain the relationship to sculpture in your work?
James Clarkson: Although my work is often sculptural in its appearance I am really interested in abstract painting. I like to play with conventional modes of sculptural display, recently I have produced a lot of sculptures/reliefs that reference cubist collages and paintings, for me it seemed the best way to display them was to hang the work from the wall. Currently I am also very interested in Victor Passmore’s work, particularly his early public works, which seemed to invite a shift in his practice from two dimensional painting towards a three dimensional approach to mark making. 

DD: This dimensional shift in sculpture is something that really interests me, especially now that we can all see a lot more exhibitions online in photo form.

 Your influences?
James Clarkson: Recently I have been looking at the work of Daniel Spoerri and also started reading his book, An Anecdoted Topography of Chance. I think a lot about the early works of Alighiero Boetti from his solo exhibition at Christian Stein Gallery.

DD: Best artist of all time?

James Clarkson: I have always had a soft spot for Yves Klein’s work, I particularly like the book of his writings, there are some really crazy - but absolutely brilliant - ideas in there about potential artworks that he wanted to make.

DD: Best show you've seen in the last six months?
James Clarkson: I really liked Will Benedict’s Bonjour Tourist at Gio Marconi in Milan.

DD: If you could be represented by any gallery?

James Clarkson: I really like Tanya Leighton Gallery in Berlin, I also really like the program at The Approach, London, Karma International, Zurich or Standard, Oslo, if I get to have the choice.

DD: Your dream show?

James Clarkson: East Side Projects or Focal Point Gallery, I find both their exhibition programs very exciting.



DD: Your next project?

James Clarkson: Currently I am working on a couple of small works for a group show in Paris at Less is More Projects. I am also working on two much larger projects that both have the ceramic’s industry in the early 1950’s as their centre point; one with Supplement Gallery, London, which looks at Victor Passmore’s work with the Poole Ceramics Company for The Festival of Britain. The other with David Dale Gallery, Glasgow, which focuses on a German ceramic companies appropriation of a work by Yves Klein that was commission for an opera house in Germany.

DD: If money was no object? 
James Clarkson: I’d be able to make much larger works, perhaps out of much more expensive things. I have been looking into the prices for windows for luxury cars like Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s, so I think if money was no object I’d definitely buy up some of those first. Or maybe I’d just get the whole car and learn to drive!

DD: Why do you get up in the morning?

James Clarkson: I’m excited to see what going to happen next!