British-American Artist Anthony James' "Light" Exhibition In Dubai Encourages Visitors To Look Deeper Within Their Selves
James' ability to work with mirrors and reflective surfaces have been created with the hope that the viewer is able to look beyond physical reflections.
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When any form of art resonates deeply with an individual, it can be a gateway to finding one's true self- and that's the ideology that British-American artist Anthony James has interwoven within his body of work over the years.
Having fiddled with the many ways light and space can be combined to create visual art, James has always placed spiritual awareness at the center of his work. Indeed, his ability to work with mirrors and reflective surfaces have been created with the hope that the viewer is able to look beyond physical reflections.
"I guess, if there's a message for it [my work], it is that if you're looking for something from the exterior world, you're never going to find what you're looking for," James said in an interview with Entrepreneur Middle East. "You have to look within... It's never the exterior. Whether you're looking at the complete unity of the cosmos, or just the divinity inside oneself, there is a unity, a oneness from the smallest fragments that make the cosmos."
24" Dodecahedron (Gold) by Anthony James. Source: Anthony James/Opera Gallery Dubai
It is this sense of seeking the truth within oneself that has formed the essence of James' first solo exhibition in the UAE titled Light, which is being showcased at the Opera Gallery in Dubai International Financial Center. Running until March 21, 2023, Light showcases a curated selection of James' standalone sculptures, mural pieces, and furniture, with each of these geometrically diverse pieces offering their own unique narratives on the concepts of mysticism, ethereality, spirituality, and science. "I've put a section together of what I consider my classical artworks, as well as pieces that have never been seen before," James notes.
The exhibition includes works like the 24" Dodecahedron (Gold), a nonagon-shaped sculpture, as well as the 33" Pyramid (Solar Black) 2023, a dark pyramid-like piece- both of which use a combination of steel, LED lights, and double-sided glass. Plus, in a display of his ability to create diverse geometric structures, James has used the same three materials for the 69' Dali Cube (Solar Black), hich has been built as an interconnected set of cubes. The 40" Bullet Panel" 2023, on the other hand, is a mural that is made entirely from polished stainless steel, while the 40" Round Rain Painting (Aluminum Panel) 2023 is a painting that be mistaken for a photograph.
33" Pyramid (Solar Black) 2023 by Anthony James. Source: Anthony James/Opera Gallery Dubai
James says that his decision to add a new set of sculptures and paintings to his Dubai exhibition isn't as much a strategic move as it is a creative one. "What I noticed is, when I moved my studios and my practice to different cities and different places, my artwork also changed," he explains. "And I noticed the difference between when I was making artwork in New York, to the artwork that I made in Los Angeles, to the artwork that I made in London or Munich. I fell in love with Dubai, and I plan on being here at least a month now. And maybe I will extend my stay for three months, and make a whole body of artwork here, and see what that artwork looks like."
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Speaking of locations, James is today the only living artist to have showcased sculptures and paintings on all seven continents- and that includes Antarctica. Indeed, in February 2023, James' orb-like sculpture 60″ Rectified Truncated Cuboctahedron (Solar Black) was installed at British luxury travel company White Desert's newest base camp on the icy continent. "Antarctica is possibly the only place on the planet that looks like a different planet than what you're on," he recalls. "This time of the year, it has 24 hours of sunshine of the brightest light, so bright that it burns your eyes, and outside, you see just ice and blue skies with silhouettes of the mountains. But again, there's a serenity in the infinity of this constant light, and this constant ice; you can almost feel the rigor of the cosmos."
40" Bullet Panel" 2023 by Anthony James. Source: Anthony James/Opera Gallery Dubai
James' endeavors in the art world have in fact created enough noise for him to be recognized by Hollywood names as well- the Daniel Craig-starring movie Knives Out: Glass Onion that came out last year had one of his artworks in it. "I don't usually lend artworks, but the producer of the movie hit me up, and said, 'Oh, our set designer is very interested in using one of your works; he found it inspirational,'" James recalls. "The piece was then sent over, and they had it for maybe a year or so of filming. And then I got to see the movie, and I was blown away, because they gave me the center of this amazing glass house set they had. My artwork wasn't really presented as a piece of the set; it was almost a character in its own way, and so, I was quite flattered by that."
For an artist who has seen his work being used in commercial vehicles like these, it might seem like James has a business-mindset approach when it comes to making art- but he vehemently pushes against even the hint of such a suggestion. "No, as an artist, you can't think of a business model when you're actually creating artworks; you have to do something that's authentic to yourself!" he declares. "I can't actually differentiate myself from my artwork; I'm just very lucky that people respond well, and get something out of my artwork. And it's quite nice when you see the school kids around them in museums, or when I'm having a conversation with someone like you, or a director of a museum, it doesn't matter your educational background or your age. My artwork is devoted to the universal language that I've hit upon, and I'm very fortunate for that. But as I said, I can't really differentiate myself from my art, so to put a business model to it is impossible."
40" Round Rain Painting (Aluminum Panel) 2023 by Anthony James. Source: Anthony James/Opera Gallery Dubai
Here, James emphasizes that he doesn't seek to dictate how people view his work. But the onus to create inspiration in the minds of the viewer lies in how persistent the artist -established or emerging- can be. And that, in effect, is the advice he'd give all the artists out there trying to make their mark. "Your only responsibility is to turn up every day, regardless of what that day brings, whether you make a great artwork or you make a failure of an artwork," James says. "But your responsibility is to turn up to the day, and you just continue. It's in the repetition, and then eventually -sometimes, it happens soon, or sometimes, it happens after a few years- but just by continuously working on your practice, eventually, something wonderful will happen."
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