James Kennedy: Shape-Shifting

Prone (2014). James Kennedy

Prone (2014). photo / James Kennedy

Born in Northern Ireland and educated at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, artist James Kennedy creates interdisciplinary work, bringing architectural ideas to canvas in a unique way. Influenced by Joseph Turner, Gerhard Richter, Francis Bacon, Russian Constructivism, and the Bauhaus, his projects — including the Morphosis and Architecture and Choreographies series — are built up as layers of canvas and paint often conceived as shallow reliefs. 

The processes involved in creating forms and compositions are guided by intuitive compositional strategies played out as hyper-drawings where profiles derived from imaginary plans and sections flatten and layer. The paintings emerge not from a preconceived sketch, but from an evolving negotiation of so many "spatial permissions" prompted by initial graphic moves. Pattern is important to his work, as is craft and the character of linework: incised, dashed, floating on paint. The repetition of like elements, iterations of shape, and scaling of projected objects, pulls his larger works into the realm of murals. Kennedy has recently started to develop model-sculptures as analogues to his paintings.

A grammar of form, reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp's dress pattern–derived bachelors in the "Large Glass," is evident throughout. This palette of shape and Kennedy's method of juxtaposition also recalls the still-life Purist paintings of Le Corbusier. Occasionally his compositions are intersected or otherwise rattled by the imposition of a highly-colored, alien-like figure that appears to inhabit the painting. These figures lend the paintings a sense of depth and detachment from the picture plane.

Kennedy has likened his works to landscapes, constructed sites that receive and negotiate architectural impositions. They are paracosms, other worlds, where architectural ideas play out unencumbered by the demands of program or even three dimensions.

This exhibition is curated by Visiting Associate Professor Mark Morris, director of exhibitions.