Founding Colab member James Nares talks to Gillian Daniel about his need to build his own brushes and the ideas behind his recent film Street, which formed the centrepiece of an exhibition he curated at MoMa in New York last year. Full interview by Gillian Daniel in Elephant Magazine Issue #18.
Why did his interest with brushstrokes lead him to create his own brushes, when there are so many varieties that you can simply buy? ‘I think I went through the natural process that every artist goes through in life and in their work,’ he explains, ‘where they slowly strip away the things that are less interesting or unique to them until they end up with something that is truly theirs. In my paintings, I found that the brushstrokes slowly became the central focus of my work and then they became the only focus. I figured I wanted to make a painting in an instant, or as close to an instant as possible, in the way a photograph is made. My paintings reference photography, not in terms of visual reality, but in terms of a temporal one. I want an immediacy to the painting that is like a photograph. And I found that I somehow couldn’t quite get that with the store-bought brushes. Something was missing.’
It is the dualities inherent in Nares’s bold strokes that make the paintings so compelling. While he strives for immediacy through the single brushstrokes, there is a tension in the trial-and-error way he works. If the stroke is not what he is looking for he paints over it and starts from scratch. Thus control and spontaneity coexist in his paintings. The strokes have an impulsive, raw quality. But there is also a sense of careful choreography. Nares comments: ‘I like that you pick up on this because duality is in many ways the central ingredient to the painting. These tensions must exist in some kind of harmony with each other for the painting to work. I am constantly riding that thin divid between intention and spontaneity. That is what defines the painting in many ways. It’s not expressionless in the sense that is is not unfiltered or undesigned.’