Distil Ennui ® definition… ‘to extract the essence and beauty of life to appease world weariness.’
Welcome to the diary and digital journal of the Distil Ennui Studio ® which was formed in 1990 by English artist Alexander James; the studio has re-located over 20 times during this time to regions ranging from the Asia Pacific, the Americas, Caribbean, Indian Ocean Rim, Europe, Russia and Siberia; each time creating new bodies of work to be exhibited in iconic spaces & galleries around the world that are infused with these surroundings.
Professor of Arts, Russian Academy of Arts & President AICA Russia, May 2014.
‘Artist Alexander James creates meticulously crafted sculptural scenes; using studio made props, breeding butterflies, growing period specific flowers, hand making the dress and 24 carat gold halo for his Ophelia in ‘Witness’, 2012 from ‘A beautiful announcement of death’; endeavours that imbue a harmonious dialogue with his subject that is ultimately to be encased within a vast underwater landscape. He does this solely for one purpose, that of documenting the act on a single 8 * 10 inch analogue camera plate.
These photographic plates are the only existing record of a far bigger conceptual process that is produced through his complete dedication to a renaissance studio practice. Perhaps it is his effort to exercise a form of control; to relive its tragic baroque beauty; to preserve its memory, from ever being able to fade away. These are diary notations of an artist living his life directly through the medium of his canvases of the most painfully intense kind.
The introduction of water serves its purpose both symbolically and as the functional device through which to achieve the painterly execution of these works; with the interaction of brushes and the artists bare hands on the surface tension of the water, literally painting the subject in light; the results of which are aching with the dramatic radiance of Caravaggio.
Working with analogue camera equipment and without post production, his life long dedication to in-camera purity establishes it’s provenance when linked to painstaking preparatory work.
The consistency of his artistic vision is one of the most remarkable things about Alexander James. Having discovered his voice in the late eighties, he has devoted himself to articulating it with the lifelong self-discipline of a medieval monk. In our publicity chasing era, such conviction commands respect. He is an oak tree in the landscape of contemporary art, not some lesser rooted being that bows to wherever the wind of public opinion takes it. ‘
— Transcript from Russian Television Interview with Alexander James, March 2014 —
‘ Technique is really a side issue, though complex you have to ask yourself why I would only want to make work in this way. By using photography as a purely documentary medium to capture these interventions, the photograph itself becomes a way to fix and extend the work; in itself a measure of time. I do this to preserve its memory before it fades in as pure a form as I can possibly endure.
The only strange thing about my practice is that I only want to produce these kind of works, and only this way. It can be done in other ways, but it would not be the same; not at all: through darkroom or digital manipulation of some kind, but this does not appeal to me. I have no desire to manipulate anything other than these liquid mechanics; if I used these other methods, tricks would occur to me and I would be able to repeat them endlessly, to me that would be horrific and the pieces no good.
The scene is there, created underwater; now I want to see the places it will go, new and unrepeatable. It appeals to me to be able to handle the work like this; not knowing what is coming.
In relation to editions, the current reproducible capacity of photography is both its force and its failing, I am provoked by the notion that a painting is intrinsically more valuable than a photograph primarily because of its singular uniqueness. To counter this perception; since late 2013 I now only produce unique prints from each work with no editions in an attempt to challenge the ideas concerning the spiritual and economic valuation of artworks and to create an exciting tension between their individual present and relinquished, reproducible past.’
Alexander James Hamilton, born 1967, London.
For 3 decades these works have been exhibited around the world with critical references naming him as ‘a minimalist Gregory Crewdson’ in the LA Times and as ‘like Man Ray meeting Jet Li’ in the New York Times.
To view artworks please visit.. www.DistilEnnui.com
general enquiries: info (at) Distil Ennui . com