MARTY ST. JAMES
In the video triptych The Journey of St. Maurin, the journey is a recurrent metaphor, the journey as quest, the journey as self-delineation. Through static, figurative and moving images accompanied by sound the viewer is drawn into a place of spiritual isolation and entrapment.
St. Maurin was a supposed heretic beheaded for his beliefs. After his death he was said to have returned to his place of worship holding his head in his hands. This horrific story of martyrdom acts as a metaphor for conviction, for the strength of belief and underlines that all experience is part of a continuing journey towards a goal of self-realization. But the journey portrayed here is bleak. Through the kinetic spiral created by the turning window we leave the enclosed space of an anonymous room to travel through undisclosed locations, both urban and rural, only to be spun back to a final frame of empty blackness. No happy resolutions are proffered so that we are invited to consider Yeats’ famous lines:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
St. James's art is charged with
feelings of isolation and anxiety
in a world turned upside down
Upside Down World, 2009, 4:00 (excerpt), music by Julia Wolfe
MARTY ST. JAMES, London-based fine artist, is a modernist in post-modern clothing. As an artist his primary medium, along with drawing, is digital technology but his concerns are firmly rooted in the spiritual and Utopian subtexts of modernism with its hallmark of self-reflexive thinking.
This guy’s work is dark, yet at the same time he recognizes something in us all which at the same time we locate and understand within his work, something fundamentally familiar. In Russia he is described as a visual poet penetrating our deepest thoughts and asking questions we dare not ask.”
St. James asks difficult and uncomfortable questions as to where we as viewers and artists choose to locate ourselves within contemporary society. The spaces he explores are those balanced stylistically between figuration and abstraction, between absence and presence, between idealization and cynicism.
Familyway is a single channel video work. The stillness stands both in stylistic and emotional contrast to the St. Maurin video. The frozen frames embody time at a stand still. In this work Marty St. James explores ideas that have seduced him in the writing of Sartre; how time separates the self from the self, from the self as it once was, from what we wish to be, from desires, from things, from others. Yet in this stillness, in the conjoined image of a family where the members reach out one to another, there exists a contradiction, a seed of hope, a way forward out of the postmodern swamp of indifference, out of a universe dominated by narcissism and commodity.
- Sue Hubbard The Independent Newspaper London
For me, performance art is the purest and greatest art form that has ever existed or probably ever will exist. It is the future as it reflects what various indigenous cultures have always known down the centuries. That is Mother earth needs interacting and living with in a natural and clever way. A way that has a purity and understanding at its centre. The need and greed for the object, for money, for the acquisition of things, often useless, is really quite pointless. Perhaps the current situation we face with a deadly virus circulating the world shows us this? Performance art must be one of the ways forward to a better brighter more human interactive and wellbeing future. At its purest, it presents a way of being creative without walls, without ownership as it is ephemeral by nature, of the moment. - Marty St. James
Excerpt from Being In Time: Performance Art 2020, by Marty St. James. Published by Zidane Press. Available Here
Invisible Man/Woman, 2016, 2:42, sound
The exhibition Somewhere or In Between was presented as a dramatic immersive experience in 2005 in The Project Room for New Media and Performing Arts at Chelsea Art Museum in NYC, curated by Nina Colosi. It included video and framed drawings and photography. The exhibition was accompanied by a discussion with Christiane Paul, adjunct new media curator, Whitney Museum of American Art; Barbara London, curator, video and digital media, Museum of Modern Art; Lev Manovich, author, artist, new media theorist; Sue Hubbard, art critic, The Independent Newspaper, London; Ken Feinstein, artist, professor of experimental video. The discussion was moderated by Mechthild Schmidt, master teacher, digital communications and media, McGhee Division, New York University.
The Journey of St. Maurin 2003 (9:00 / 3 screen video, colour, sound) was premiered at the National Centre For Contemporary Art, Moscow in 2003, and Familyway 2001 (4:00, video, colour, sound) was featured in the evo1 exhibition and public programs at Gallery L, The Russian State University for the Humanities, The House of Journalists, Moscow, 2001, curated by Nina Colosi and Christiane Paul.
Invisible Man/Woman 2016 (2:42, single screen video, colour, sound) was premiered by Streaming Museum in 2017.
Upside Down World 2009 (4:00, single screen video, colour) with music by Julia Wolfe, was premiered by Streaming Museum in the globally touring exhibition Artists and Innovators for the Environment in 2009.
MARTY ST. JAMES is known as a pioneer of the video portrait, and works in a range of contemporary media including performance, photography, digital video and drawings.
His best-known work is the The Swimmer, a multi-screen installation in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. In 2000, his video work "kids" was presented in the benchmark exhibition with master artists from each year of the 20th century at National Portrait Gallery.
St James’ performative and sculptural video work acknowledges portraiture’s function as a ‘map’ of our relationship with ourselves and the wider world.
The intimate, human-focus of his art can be interpreted as a theoretical reflection of the contemporary person existing under the influence of modern technological systems that are affecting human consciousness both enabling and mutating the free flow of information and facilitating globalism.
His exhibitions, collections and screenings have been included in the National Portrait Gallery and Tate (London), Pompidou Centre (Paris), Museum of Photography (Tokyo), National Centre for Contemporary Art (Moscow), Chelsea Art Museum (New York City), Tigre Museum (Buenos Aires), Redtory (Beijing), Blink Gallery (Hong Kong) and AIP Gallery (Guangzhou). He has undertaken several international artist residencies including Russia, China, Australia and Antarctica.
For him art is a way of thinking in the visual rather than the making of a heroic statement or precious object. He is in tune with Bachelard’s notion that the embodiment of knowledge exists in the action of making, rather than in the object of the finished piece. His intention is to investigate “the stringing together of moments in frame type form to explore surface and time.” Sue Hubbard, Arts Critic The Independent Newspaper, London