Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Richard W. James
RAMOS: Hi Richard, thank you of joining me
JAMES: alright , I'm ready!
well now we chat about your work
the first image I saw of yours was FOLLEREE AND FOLLEROO
lets start there
Richard W. James
Great. you have any particular questions about that one?
sure. it is so specific, the quilt outfit the string, the joint twins, the crown - where did this all come from?
A couple of sources came together on that one really. I had been reading a lot about the Roman empire and was knocking around doing something referencing Romulus and Remulus and Remus. The origin story of Rome is quite gruesome if you look into it. One brother killing the other, etc. The other, and probably more important influence is a book called "Riddley Walker."
that book has had a huge impact on my art in a lot of ways
It deals with a post apocalyptic future where people are just relearning how to reform a working society. They rediscover art, machines, etc and misconstrue their meaning and uses. Because the book is written in a style similar to clockwork orange, the misspelling of words and vague descriptions leave a ton of visual room to fill in your head as one reads it.
and how do you relate that to the Romans? this idea of a new world or the strange overwhelming power of state
Folleree and Folleroo are the names of two dogs in the book that come to represent fracturing duality
In a way I came to see the two fictional sets of characters as book ends to a long story. The birth and death of western society.
I picked that particular quilt and cut it down the middle to offset the grid in a reference to atom splitting as well
the birth and death (or rebirth) is a lot - it holds everything
how do you put all that in a sculpture?
I get the quilt and the fractal reference
and the twins as an extension of it
their faces are dirty but they wear a crown, which is no stranger to the book
I would say it is closer to the end than it is to the beginning
Yeah a crown/shared though process. I've always had a visual fascination with head gear as a way to illustrate thought complexities.
Haha, maybe... but i think every generation thinks that
wait - I was referring to the sculpture
not the present moment
haha no need
I think you are right - every generation does want it to end, I think because they can't stand the thought of not being there for what would happen next
what exactly is closer to the end?
it seems like an expression of royalty
but a post-apocalyptic royalty
the Romans had a totally different style, baths, intellect.... well taken care of
tell me about DOUBTING THOMAS
To get back to an earlier statement of yours....I don't try to put anything into a sculpture really. I have ideas that i mull over often while i work, sometimes they are about larger ideas and sometime they revolve around a piece of junk i recently acquired from an antique store. I usually approach the studio and pursue an idea for a piece, but rarely does the finished work end anywhere close to the initial seed. Hopefully the work that leaves the studio contains something of worth. I consider it a failure if i'm not discovering something/ some connection in the process.
Yeah, those aren't connected that closely. I made five Doubting Thomas' for my thesis exhibition to line the walls.
Richard W. James
I understand - and I was not assuming Doubting Thomas was related.
I wanted to make sure we spoke about them. There is something very lovely about the halo or saintly gesture behind their head
I wanted this figures to either probe themselves or the viewer. I liked the idea of having these guys be part saint and part astronaut.
and part boxer
what do you mean by probe themselves?
The symbol of their divinity is also the tool that keeps them separated from the people. Piousness turning one into a tourist on earth.
i have a plethora of issues with organized religion, if you couldn't tell.
religion or any power structure?
I am having a lot of fun looking at the work - checking out THE DREAMERS
tell me about your issues - where does it come from?
Richard W. James
Power structures are a natural thing and as neutral in and of itself as a tree, if you subscribe to a Darwin based outlook of evolution that is. I think I have more of an issue with how the religions operate from a position of absoluteness, when in fact they are all constructed from guesswork. I grew up a southern baptist and really bought into the whole thing until I read the bible cover to cover at the age 15. The amount of cognitive dissonance required to overlook the discrepancies was too much. Like who did Adam and Eves children procreate with? Questions I had as a 15 old that sent me off the path.
that's pretty awesome, I've always been very curious - I was born in a communist country where religion was against the law
so I was never exposed to any of it
That's weird to me.
and that is a good questions, maybe they procreated with each other and that's why we are all a little weird
I deeply believe that the template set by believing in a god/afterlife affects ones interface with other power structures.
yes that is true
if one's belief is true, then there is no higher power structure
and this is apparent all over the world
I actually meant, there is no higher structure of power
it not a huge jump to make that if you have developed the neural pathways that come from religious faith in a higher power, those same system of brain chemistry would, every so slightly, encourage blind faith in very fallible political figures.
I don't know about that
I mean, yes, it is a huge jump
if I believe in a higher power - it takes me further and further away from believing in human will power
therefore all these political structure crumble
well maybe i can put it another way
I certainly think we (humanity) would take a little better care of the place (earth) if it was viewed as a temporary place to live until heaven.
sorry "not viewed"
yeah the diminished importance of self will is a big thing for me as well.
I'm not sure, it isn't so different, in a smaller scale, than a hotel from a home and people treat their homes like shit
I would say that if people thought this thing never ended, and they come back time after time, and every little step will influence the quality of the next life
then they would behave and treat earth with respect
but this idea that there is only one life - why should they care?
which is not different from what you are saying...
Sorry, we can get back to the artwork..... I could go off about this stuff for hours if not kept in check! Usually i can preregister eye rolling to gauge!
haha no way - this is a lovely subject - but you are correct, lets get back to the work
so tell me about THE DREAMERS
Haha, some deep cuts!
what do you mean by that?
I would probably refer to those as the first iterations of what i make now.
wait wait - what did you mean by deep cuts?
That work (those 4-5 pieces) was the first step to what I make today.
ahhh gotcha ok just making sure
they are beautiful
I was potter for many years and then went back to grad school for my MFA in ceramics. I was still very medium based until my last year in school at KU.
there is something so peaceful about them
there is also a lack of control in the implementation - unlike now
Those pieces are where I started to incorporate material that had specific meaning to my past, and by proxy, my present.
yes but also theres a freedom in the execution, an sense of freedom or experimentation... do you see that?
They were pretty fresh and loose to me. I was exciting to work with new material. That first round felt like i had finally made my work and not an experiment.
don't you miss that?
there's something really special about the first work coming out of a series of experiments
and something really fresh about not knowing that's what it is until you finish
do you think that's how you operate today?
Yeah, i do. Like i said before, I honestly don't know how things are going to end up. One of the great things about working in a doll format was that i could have flexibility about how the figure went together for the first time. I'm still making changes up until the last minute. I have finished a work and then dismantled the piece in order to use the feet on a different body. I think that uncertainty still excited me. Especially coming from a ceramic background where once the work is in the kiln, there are no more changes to me made.
but you are right, it's still precious that first time.
I would hope that if I ever stop feeling excited that way i would move on to something else.