With work spanning every media platform, through painting, photography, video and installation, Alexander James is fast becoming a creative force not only in his hometown London, but further afield in the art world too; following up on the Reuben Selby SS22 show dubbed “CLASH” – which the artist had a hand in putting together through adorning garments with his cultivated artstyle – we chased Alex to hear more about his creative endeavors, inspirations and goals.
Growing up in England, how have you ended up pursuing the path you’ve taken? Did you have any influences early on that led you to becoming a creative?
Growing up, I loved taking photos, my grandfather always had a dark room in his house, and he was always developing films. I’d draw on the negatives that he wasn’t using, he’d make me draw still life images and stuff. That was the start of it – none of my family are particularly creative but that was the foundation. Then, I went to a few schools, with all of them pushing me creatively in every aspect, not only art-wise.
If I hadn’t gone there, I think I’d have still found the same path but not necessarily until much later on – the second I started drawing and painting again there, that was it. Nothing else was interesting to me. I always loved creating from an early age, so I think it’s always been a thing for me. It’s therapeutic, and moving on and up in age to more advanced skill sets and reflecting on a lot of different narratives, it’s a perfect way to express stories from your life.
Are you inspired by any classic painters or other multidisciplinary artists? If so, who?
There’s so many people that inspire me day to day. Painters wise, I get references from Francis Bacon – I love the texture he uses. I love Peter Doig, Georg Baselitz – the palettes that Baselitz uses are pretty incredible.
I also take a lot of inspiration from older artists as well. It varies from what I’m working on, but I have my go-to’s that I’m very familiar with. Luc Toyman is another one, his paintings feel like negatives. His book was actually one of the first that I ever bought and I have it in my room. These guys are a big inspiration of mine – I equally love Sarah Lucas’ work, her sculptures are incredible, the shapes are just so bizarre, they’re almost uncomfortable to look at but make a lot of sense. Anselm Kiefer, he’s another one, his textures and scale is incredible. The artist is most known for his subject matter dealing with German history and myth, particularly as it relates to the Holocaust.
There’s tonnes of artists I look to.
At the beginning, I loved KAWS when he was doing billboards and graffiti – I followed all his stuff on YouTube. Murakami with the most chaotic paintings with the tiny little faces on massive canvases. Mike Kelly is a big one for me – I love how he incorporated loads of toys as well as a nostalgic hit.
You’ve come leaps and bounds since graduating from Camberwell College moving from your first show in Hoxton to more recent endeavors on a global scale; what’s changed since then on a professional level with your work and output?
I think each show you learn a lot – mental and physical energy goes into creating a body of work like that. You hone in on whatever the narrative is – in my case it’s looking down memories and family oriented stuff so it’s quite draining, some is sad some is happy but it brings so much to my paintings. I’m on this constant route where I’m picking things up, leaving things behind, expanding my knowledge and developing myself.
We’ve seen you experiment so broadly with genres and mediums of art – do you have any desire to crossover into the fashion world?
Fashion has always been an integral part of my life, I’ve always loved the idea of a collection and its all similar, the stories behind the designers and everything is amazing. I’m always open to these ideas but they have to be on a very small scale – not in terms of brands, but in terms of exclusivity. Not to say it has to be expensive or anything but it’d have to be creatively concentrated.
We recently saw your work exhibited within the Reuben Selby SS22 collection – how did this relationship with Reuben come about, how did the two of you work together to create such fluid pieces and how important are these collaborative friendships to you?
It’s so important to me to work with friends, Reuben has a beautiful creative mind and is open to any suggestions so that always helps. We met at my exhibition and have stayed close since. We have so many exciting things planned, a T-shirt collaboration with embroidered elements off the top of my head. It’s a very small quantity of them so it’ll be interesting to see the result. They tie in with the body of work I’m making now so it’s very exciting.
And looking forward, what aspects of your art are you toying with right now? For future shows, is there anything in particular you’re trying to develop and evolve?
Working a lot on textiles right now, incorporating it with my paintings and the relationship between the two. My grandma had felt hanging from her ceiling all the time working as an interior designer. I remember walking through her house as a young boy sneezing every second from the felt in the air. That’s a big thing for me so I’m perfecting the relationship between those two.
Just different ways of telling stories, really.