Artist of the Month: Paul James

Tell us an interesting story that occurred during art-making. 

There was this time when I was completely drunk…..

To be honest, the most interesting thing that can happen is during the moment when you realise that what you are doing is actually working – when everything starts going together. Then, you get completely absorbed and forget about time passing, eating, drinking, and other essential bodily functions. I very often turn up late to dinner appointments, covered in paint and light-headed from not having eaten the whole day.

I’m reasonably organised when painting, so I do not usually have funny anecdotes on how I slipped on a splurge of oil paint on the floor,  falling on the painting I was working on, and leaving a body-shaped impression on the canvas. However, some of the most interesting techniques come about when you really screw something up. It is common practice to press large sheets of paper against the canvas to remove the excess and unwanted oil paint – if you do it carefully, the pattern left on the paper can be very interesting, and becomes something to ponder. Washing wet acrylic paint off a canvas in my shower when things went horribly wrong led to a technique that I used in a controlled way for the “Metamorphosis” series of paintings.

I went though a stage of painting on unprimed canvas with acrylic paint. As the paint seeps through the canvas, I was using a new shower curtain underneath the canvas to protect my floor. After the abstract had dried, the canvas and shower curtain would have stuck together. Peeling them apart, the pattern from the shower curtain would had adhered to the back of the canvas. One time, I took one look and decided that the back of the canvas was nicer than the front, so I reversed it and applied varnish over the back. That happened more that once during that period. Another time, I was unrolling a canvas in front of a customer who had commissioned, and he loved it! But I had unrolled the canvas the wrong way around, and he was looking at the back of the painting.

Cell #12

Cell #12


Share an experience that helped to shape your perspective as an artist.

I think the most lasting experience is growing up as the only child in a small family. From young, I was left alone to daydream, play, experiment, and discover things for myself. For a while I had an imaginary friend called James. He was an extension on the imaginary space I was living in. Creating artwork, and in particular, painting, is a portal back to that imaginary space.
Where do you draw inspiration from?

For me, inspiration comes from asking the question, “how can I express ….? “, or “how can I use this medium in different way?” Inspiration can also come simply from experimentation.

My abstract works are generally an expression of my thoughts and feelings – they capture my mood at that instant. Some abstracts take a while to finish, because I have to revisit the same mood in order to complete them. Sometimes, it is also just about having fun.

Some of my other more surreal works are a gentle poke at social situations that I have experienced.


How do you keep up with what’s happening in the art community today?

To be honest, I do not really keep up – there is so much going on, and so little time. I attend the occasional exhibition opening. Social media provides the most biased, and lazy way to find out what’s happening – that is where I get to find out what my artists friends are up to!
Words of wisdom, or a favourite quote you live by?

“Watching paint dry isn’t always boring, at least you have something nice to look at.”

When asked by a TIME Magazine reporter how he knew when his paintings were finished, Jackson Pollock replied, “How do you know when you have finished making love?”

What are you currently reading, watching listening to or looking at that inspires and fuels your love for art?

The new Radiohead album has this mood running through that I find very contemplative. Contemplation is good for the practice of art. Very often I’ll play “Music for 18 musicians” by Steve Reich, or the sound-track to the film “Koyaanisqatsi” by Phillip Glass, while I am painting. It serves the purpose of taking me on a journey, and providing a rhythm against which to paint.

I watch very little television, but I am inspired by movies by Stanley Kubrick, or Paolo Sorrentino. They have a fantastic sense of composition, lighting, symmetry, and colour. Dali, Magritte, Hopper, Rothko, and Pollock had their own questions that they were trying to answer, and are the artists I always return to.

Calvin Pang is a local artist whom I can communicate and share ideas with. He has recently publish a book of words, which contain the most contemplative works I have read in a while.




What are you trying to communicate with your art?

With the abstract works, it is primarily a mood I am communicating. I want the viewer to share the mood, or to find his or her own space or meaning in it. The interesting thing I found out through talking to my audience, is that they see figures or shapes in the paintings I never saw, or that they relate to the painting in their own personal way based on their experience and story, which is all I really want. If it moves someone, then I am happy.

With the figurative or surreal works they generally have a strong concept that is usually very personal to my experiences, but again the viewer has to find his or her own space or meaning in it.


What’s the best advice you can give on how to be more creative?

To daydream, or to sit in a quiet place and chill. To reflect on your own experiences, and listen to the experiences and stories of others. To experiment, and not be afraid of messing up – you can always paint over that canvas again.


What is your dream project?

Looking at all the great artworks that have been done with very simple materials, I’m not really sure that having all the physical resources in the world helps in making great art. I think time and space do. I would really like to work on some very large abstracts.

I really would want to develop a brainwave translator. You know, that voice in your head? How about something that records all the thoughts, dreams, and images in your head, and produces a nicely formatted blog post complete with images everyday. That’s a bit far-fetched, so I would settle for a device to produce artworks based on your brainwaves – that would be cool.

Metamorphosis #6

Metamorphosis #6


What is in store for 2016? 

Making a brainwave translator and painting some really large abstracts, and reconnecting with my imaginary childhood friend James. Maybe he’s a better painter than me now.


Some of Paul works are featured in the ART LOFT ASIA x Rendezvous Hotel Singapore Eclecti-City exhibition. The exhibition runs from 10 June 2016 till 31 October 2016.

For more information and more artwork from this artist,
click on the link to view the artist profile.


Leave a Reply