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David James

AUTOMATTER is the second show in a trilogy by artist DAVID JAMES at GALLERY46.

In his first show CIVILISATION, James explored the relationship between art history, transformation and personal experience. For AUTOMATTER, he delves into the subconscious mind through his practice of automatic drawing and oil painting.

During the past 10 years the artist has developed a method of drawing that continues the spirit of automatism pioneered by André Masson.


The result is a collection of thousands of drawings and a small number of monochromatic oil paintings that are based on a selection of the drawings. What emerges from the drawings and paintings is a world of inexplicable objects and forms that look vaguely familiar, yet strangely disconcerting and unknowable. Neither wholly representational or fully abstract.

Rather than titling, James refers to his work with codes like ‘eE<. v(w)’, ‘-0|00-o^o’ and ‘,*T =; u\-‘ intentionally obfuscating any reading of the works. Where the drawings are fluid and immediate, the paintings are controlled and precise.


Each drawing takes no more than a few minutes to complete, but on average only one in fifty is considered successful by the artist. Those that aren’t get discarded. The oil paintings are created from the ‘successful’ drawings.

Digital printing is used to enlarge the drawings to ‘guarantee the immediacy and quality of the line’ in the original drawing. The prints are over painted with layers of gesso and oil paint and then wiped away in various stages to create the monochrome tones and textures that make up the three dimensional forms in and of the paintings.

In AUTOMATTER the formal (conscious) elements of art are equally as important to James as the informal (subconscious) elements of the mind – but only Freud would know what this means.

Sound installation by Jack James

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