®  Distil Ennui.   definition...   to extract the essence and beauty of life to appease world weariness.


The Distil Ennui Studio was formed in 1990 by British artist Alexander James Hamilton. Exploring the mechanics of water as a primary medium for three decades through a studio and location based practice. Works are documented underwater on analogue cameras without the use of post production. Since 2013 all prints are unique with no editions ever to be released.


... text by Andrei Tolstoy (1956-2016) née. Leo Tolstoy

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 realisation 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 in an effort to exercise a form of control; to relive its tragic baroque beauty. To preserve its memory, from ever being able to fade away.

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. '


--- 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; to frame its tragic baroque beauty 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

Born 1967, London

Lives London



05-2017     –    'All icons are false', May 2017, London.

05-2016     –    'The illusion of oils', May 2016. Iset Tower, Ekaterinburg, Russia.

01-2015     –    'Oil + Water' 9 sculptural works created in the winter forests of Siberia.

10-2014     –    'Vanitas' Cafe Royal, Regent Street, London. 2nd Oct 2014 until 2nd Jan 2015.

04-2014     –    'Rastvorennaya Pechal' April 2014, Triumph Gallery - Moscow.

04-2013     –    'Intersection' hosted by Patrick Barstow & Peter Simon, founder of  The Monsoon Collection.  

05-2012     –    'A beautiful announcement of death' Pertwee Anderson & Gold Gallery, London.

05-2010     –    ‘Taxi’  Ann330 Gallery, Los Angeles.

04-2010     –    ‘Tokyo Green’  Conningsby Gallery, London.

09-2009     –    ‘Space & Time’  London.

01-2008     –    ‘Working Water’ RCP Gallery, Sydney.

09-2006     –    ‘Flight' The Boiler House, Shanghai.

11-2004     –    ‘Shift’ 109 Building, Shibuya, Tokyo. 

08-2003     –    ‘No Logo’ Maison Bastille, Paris.  

08-2002     –    ‘The Colour Candy’ Sydney.

09-2000     –    'Flesh & Foliage' Loft 56, New York

07-1999     –    'Liquid Mechanics' 18 installation works mapped across Kents chalk stream network.

01-1996     –    'Defluxio' deviation plinths installed in Los Angeles floodwater causeway.

12-1995     –    'Dreams walking past' Guerrilla exhibition installation Fifth Avenue, New York.

02-1990     –    ‘Flight’ London.

09-1987     –    'Parking For Free' Guerrilla exhibition in New York car park building set across three levels.

02-1986     –    'Intervened' 20 underwater installation works mapping Caribbean endangered reef hotspots.

07-1985     –    'Under the surface' documenting tourisms effect offshore. National Pantheon, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic.


GROUP SHOWS (selected)
02-2017     –     Museum of Contemporary Art 'Vanitas' in 'Narte Morte'. The Four Domes Pavillion, Warsaw.  

04-2016     -    'Reinvigorating the still life' Konsthallen Bohuslän Museum, Sweden.

06-2015     –    'Natre MorteHå Gamle Prestegard Museum exhibition, Stavanger, Norway

08-2014     –     Photo Shanghai with Valérie-Anne Giscard d’Estaing.

12-2011     –    ‘Iconoclasts’ Lloyds Club, London.

10-2011     –    'The House Of The Nobleman' London, Curated by Victoria Golembiovskaya. 

06-2011     –    ‘Still Even’ Pertwee Anderson & Gold Gallery, London.

01-2011     –    ‘Artmosh’  Munich.

12-2010     –    ‘Artmosh’ London.

10-2010     –    ‘You Are Here’  Flaere Gallery, London.

07-2009     –    ‘Artmosh’  Paris.


PROJECTS (selected)
10-2016     –     Launch of secure legacy artwork authentication through US-Copright Office & BlockChain

01-2016     –     Three Films released from the 2015 artist residency. 

07-2015     –     Artist Residency Program, 8 artists working from the London studio during August 2015.

01-2015     –     Studio relocates to Siberia to create a new body of work 'Oil + Water'.

12-2014     –     Artist talk 'Deconstructing Flow Practice', Cafe Royal, London.

09-2014     –     London residency placement offered to Russian painter Alex Kuznetsov.

03-2012     –    'Tokyo Taxi' published by Merrell, photography & texts (2002 - 20012) Alexander James.

11-2013     –     Studio relocates to the historic 'Red October' chocolate factory, Moscow to create 'Rastvorennaya Pechal'.

02-2017     -     article 'Studio as laboratory' published in issue 13 AfterNyne Magazine.

07-2016     -     article 'The butterfly effect' Christie's International Magazine.

06-2016     –     article 'Dancing with butterflies' by Tricia Divets of Private Air Magazine.

01-2016     –     Philistine Magazine 'Pure Process' article with Crista Leonard & Dominic Perry.

12-2015     –     Russia Today TV 'Immersed In Moscow' TV documentary on  ‘Rastvorennaya Pechal’.

12-2015     –    'Portrait of an artist' article by Eloise Stevens.

09-2015     –     article 'Chaos In Residence' by Eloise Stephens who resided in the studio with the 8 resident artists.

08-2015     –     article FOUR Magazine's Arts Editor, Eva Luis Schwatz.

06-2015     –    'OIL + WATER' shortlisted for ‘Environmental photographer of the year 2015’ award. 

01-2015     -     Four Magazine 'Malerisch Fotografiert' article with Arts Editor, Eva-Luise Scharwz.

11-2014     –     Laissez Faire Arts article 'Ophelia & The Chocolate Factory' written by Britt Pflüger.

09-2014     –    'Deutche Welle' broadcast EuroMax TV's studio visit to explore the underwater process.

08-2014     -     article by Anna Mcnay, Arts Critic for Studio International discussing Russia with Alexander James.

07-2014     –     Josh Sims from Billionaire Magazine interview with discussions of Russia.

06-2014     –     article 'An Englishman in Moscow' by arts correspondent, Sophie Jane Newstead for Bric Magazine

04-2014     –     arts correspondent for the The Global Panorama Jess Rayner article 'Underwater Installation Art

03-2014     –     professor Andrei Tolstoy; née Leo Tolstoy critical text for  'Rastvorennaya Pechal'.

03-2014     -     article by Royal Photographic Society, 'First british artist in 30 years to prepare & exhibit works within Russia'.

02-2014     –     Voice Of RussiaRadio interview, London.

01-2014     –     FAD Art's Editor Kimberly Brown; article discussing my relocation to Russia.

11-2013     –     Blouin Arts, Moscow Arts EditorNastassia Astrasheuskaya article

10-2013     –     Thames & Hudson publish 'Natre Morte'  with key Vanitas works & texts by Dr Michael Petry.

08-2013     –     Moscow Times, Arts & Culture Editor Garrison Golubock interview on 'Art & Russia'. 

05-2013     -     The Positive, Arts Correspondent Hannah Tyrell discuss 'Behind the art'.

04-2013     –     The Independant, Matlida Battersby investigates the exhibition 'Intersection'.

01-2013     –    'Dead Or Alive' Gavin Lucas, Arts Editor of Creative Review deconstructs 'Glass'.

12-2012     –     Sunday Telegraph Newspaper, 'Panorama In The Arts' Section explores 'Glass'.

03-2012     –    'Tokyo Taxi' published by Merrell, photography & texts (2002 - 20012) Alexander James.

09-2010     –     AOP Association Of Photographers IMAGE Magazine; front cover & lead article exploring 'Fusion'.

06-2010     –     article 'Fusion' by Academic John Routledge.


04-2016     –    '
The Great Leveller' joins The Donna Spaan Contemporary Collection of Art, Calvin College, USA. 

07-2013     –    'Morpho Rhetenor Helena'  joins the Monsoon Art Collection.   

04-2013     –    ‘Multiply’ from 'Vanitas' acquired by Ivor Braka of The Fine Art Fund

04-2011     –    ‘Talk to me’ joins Davis Lisboa Museum collection.


08-2016     –    '
Untitled Plate 0813-021' Unique Chromogenic Print 
160 x 160 cms. unframed. $15,000 USD 

04-2016     –    'The Great Leveller'. No 9 of 20. Chromogenic Print 19 x 25 cms. museum framed. $2750 USD 

08-2013     –    Christie's Contemporary sale 'Grace' AP No. I. Chromogenic Print 200 x 150 cms. museum framed. $19,000 USD 


01-2016     –    Film 'Shifting Parameters' released.

01-2016     –    Film 'Water Light' released.

12-2015     –    RTV Television Documentary 'Immersed in Moscow'.

04-2014     –    M24 Television interview at opening of Moscow Solo Exhibition Rastvorennaya Pechal.

02-2014     –    Voice Of Russia. Radio interview, London.

02-2014     –    PRIVET Television interview given in the ‘Red October’ studio. Moscow.

09-2014     –    Deutche Welle, EuroMax television interview, studio, London.

01-2014     –    Laissez-Faire’s Arts Editor Britt Pfluger, article 'Process & Russia'.

12-2012     –   'Intersection' Film I, studio, London.

03-2012     –   'Tokyo Taxi' published by Merrell, photography & texts (2002 - 20012) Alexander James.



All icons are false’ Catalogue

Transparency of a dream’ Catalogue

OIL + WATER’ Catalogue

Rastvorennaya Pechal’  Exhibition Catalogue (english & Russian text)

Vanitas’ Catalogue (russian text)

Vanitas’ Catalogue (english text)

A beautiful announcement of death’ Exhibition Catalogue

Swarm’ Catalogue