In Todd James’ new exhibition of paintings, you literally receive a Warm Welcome as you enter the exhibition. Vibrant, vivid and intimate interior compositions invite you inside. The paintings are personal spaces, living rooms, bedrooms and teenage shrines, spaces on canvas for contemplation and inspiration. In some interiors, you instantly recognize the iconography of a certain era of youth; RUN DMC, Iron Maiden, De La Soul, Slayer, Public Enemy, Wild Style and Wu Tang posters crowd the walls and doors. These are some of the artists that came to define several decades of creation and innovation in contemporary culture, and who served as inspiration and creative fuel for many other artists worldwide. Among the artwork on the walls in some of the interior paintings, Todd James’ own early creative work with Beastie Boys, The Source and Mobb Deep can be recognized. In one composition, you enter a crowded bedroom, crates full of records, flyers, clippings and posters taped or tacked to the wall, and depending on your own tastes growing up, you will recognize record sleeves with B-52s, posters with Kraftwerk and David Bowie, a Motörhead logo above the bed, a bong on the table and that ancient telecommunications device - a landline telephone.
These new paintings project that fine and elusive analogue feeling, not nostalgically, but rather as a tribute to the way we treasured culture and the circulation of it in pre-internet days. You had to invest yourself in the search and discovery. You had to take part and commit, you couldn’t swipe yourself woke. In James’ new body of work, it is also recommended to invest a bit of time in contemplation. Painted with acrylics and oil in a super flat manner, tiny clean brush moves, the depth and layers of the paintings is a slow reveal. The works often have additional spaces and planes, figures that appear once your eyes have adjusted to the bold visual language and your mind is processing. You will find interior paintings within the paintings, some of these with paintings in them. Elements and objects trail into abstraction only to return as figurative ideas. Pots and plants merge with human figures, furniture and architecture. James has long been known for his lush and saturated palette of primary colours and their children, in Warm Welcome a group of paintings are rendered in this exuberant colour scheme, while another is painted in only black and white. The shift feels momentarily bright, like observing his interiors in a full moon’s light. As with the colourful works, your mind needs to align with your eyes before the compositional elements are exposed. Blink and you might see something new. In a third group of works, James mixes the two approaches - a window mosaic lights up in bright colours in one painting, while an additional room is bared in a black and white blitz in another. A return of sorts, to basics for James who earlier in his career predominantly used black, graphite and white with incisions of pink, red or blue. The new works feel personal, genuine and empathic: an homage to the importance of the culture that shapes us as individuals. It would be mistaken to view them as tombstones for better bygone days – they are present reminders of the potential of culture.