BANG! KABOOM! KRRAKKLLLL! KAPOW! Penetrating bolts of color and fields of paint debris cover the walls of Tinney Contemporary in Nashville, TN, like a larger-than-life collision between Galactus and The Mighty Thor. James Perrin’s abstract works layer multiple painting methods to create a novel visual language. By merging discordant formal elements, he creates cosmic environments that thwart our sense of space and time. In his latest exhibition, “Observations, Integrations, Pareidolia and Polysemy,” James deftly manipulates his medium to suggest people, places and things that are at once familiar and strange.
James is a rare breed of artist that champions formal dexterity. He recalls a specific childhood memory on the bank of a river in northeast Tennessee, where he dug his hands into wet mud and sculpted a head. This telling moment expresses the inherent connection that James — and everyone for that matter — has to tactile materials like clay and paint. When these mediums are handled with thoughtfulness and precision, they have the ability to express powerful human experiences. The way James amalgamates globs of paint at the base of a canvas, for instance, resembles a sandy beach or the rocky and pitted surface of the moon. He does not explicitly depict these places, but he manipulates his materials in such a way that our minds can’t help but draw these conclusions.
James’ compositions are loud and complex. Having spent a great deal of time painting landscapes from life, he is able to bring realistic elements into his work, cast directly from observation and experience. Many of the elements in his paintings are derived from parts of the human anatomy, from garments of clothing, from pieces of the earth’s crust, from skylines–and even the aisles of convenience stores.
As part of his cohesive exhibition at Tinney and as a complement to his paintings, James presented a series of small works that depict the interior of Walmart. These works were inspired by a particular moment when he took his 90-year-old grandma to shop for groceries. Momentarily dumbfounded by the fully constructed tent display hanging above the sporting goods section, James thought it might be interesting to create a series that fused two ideas: to use paint scraps as an actual object in the painting while depicting a familiar place.
James’ Walmart interiors sum up his primary intentions–to push and stretch an image beyond the bounds of realism so that it begins to suggest something entirely different altogether. Here, the layered blobs of paint scraps begin to look like the actual commodities on the shelves. Similarly, the mass of patterns in “Walmart Study 10“ take on anthropomorphic qualities, appearing more like a looming figure that a hanging tent. This phenomenon, in which your mind creates a familiar pattern out of something that isn’t really there, is known as pareidolia and was explored by da Vinci. It’s essentially what happens when you see “the man in the moon,” or what James experienced when he went to Italy and found himself extracting images out of the weathered stones that line the city’s streets and walls.
A powerful compilation of abstract, expressionistic and realistic parts, James’ paintings transport us somewhere foreign, chaotic and stimulating–a liminal space where things shift in and out of focus. In doing so, he reminds us that people and places are not always as they appear. He also forces us to consider the innumerable ways a material, like paint, can translate an experience or our memory of a certain experience. A master of his craft, no doubt, James serves as proof that technical precision and a hungry imagination beget magical results.
A special thanks to James for sharing his work with us today. To see more of his work, click here.
“Observations, Integrations, Pareidolia and Polysemy” will be on display at Tinney Contemporary, 237 Fifth Ave. North in Nashville, through September 26. To learn more about this exhibit, click here.
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