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Artist Statement: Terrell James

Catalogue text, Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Faculty Exhibition, 2004

For years, my art has drawn on the presence of nature, experienced as an abstracted, internalized landscape; now it is changing, moving in a new direction. Now, it seems that I am looking at, absorbing everything. This new direction has been accelerated by my studio’s recent move to an industrial area near downtown.

Surrounded by old railroad equipment and switch gear, and the detritus of disused warehouses, perhaps I should not be surprised to find suggestions of pipes, machines, and other new geometries appearing in my work. This transition has been gradual, even measured, a matter of wider attention and a larger scope for the observation that goes into my drawing and painting. For instance, the recent painting Celeste is dominated by residual landscape forms, while another made at the same time, Shift, is fully given over to a new, more mechanical language.

In printmaking, similar changes have begun to appear in the interaction of my intaglio lines with the etched fields into which they are worked, backgrounds now formed not just of abstracted nature but of collaged fragments of photographs, cartoons, text and other images drawn from the flood of mediated information crossing my desk, television and computer screens, and reflected in my dreams. As with past work, the "action" of these recent paintings and prints - both their making and experience - takes place in a zone between evocation and naming, between image and object.

In this turn to a broader, markedly different ground for figuration, I often feel as if working in an active, polarized space between the twin magnets of my inner and outer worlds, by turns attracting and repelling each other. There is an inevitable tension, but also much new room in this field, as much for the playfulness and even humor of some pieces’ cartoon contours as for more sober appraisals of my place in the visual world.