Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present All and Nothing, an exhibition of new paintings and works on paper by the British artist James Roper. This is Roper’s first one-man show at the gallery and marks his solo debut in New York.
Inspired by the Baroque masters, Roper’s acrylic-on-canvas paintings thoroughly update the impulse to decoration and excess. Amid images of billowing cloud formations and voluminous folds of fabric, the artist finds contemporary correlations across multiple disciplines, from neuroscience and quantum physics, to Hollywood blockbusters and haute couture, to Japanese Anime and street art. In all of his work, eye-popping color and crisp pattern reference flights of fancy or hallucination, and any pictorial “reality,” whether heightened or abstracted, is as much a figment of neurological processes as aesthetic phenomena.
In Epistemic Constraint, for example, colorful folds of fabric, gray smoke, and a golden orb triangulate in the center of the canvas, while vortices of architectural elements, black spirals, and blue sky tug at the image and eye from the outer edges. Through the process of pulling apart and reconfiguring these details, Roper connects directly to the rudimentary mechanisms of seeing. By isolating then collaging bits of graphic design and decorative flourishes, Roper intensifies these visual triggers, causing a sort of neurological hyperactivity, or “peak shift,” to borrow a term from neuroaesthetic theory. In this sensory-cognitive process, the viewer makes visual sense of each composition by shifting, along with the painting, from the abstract to the figurative and back again.
The “characters” depicted in Roper’s Exvoluta series embody deity-like forms influenced by the imagery of Hindu gods, Christian saints, and comic-book Superheroes, all rendered in glorious material excess beyond the reach of the natural. In Exvoluta Rush, denatured forms entwine within an explosion of graphic patterns, with figurative fragments suggesting Captain America and an Anime bikini babe. Here and elsewhere, the artist draws comparisons between the aesthetics of modern consumerism and devotional iconography, emphasizing parallels in the human capacity for both ecstasy and excess—the titular “all and nothing.”
Roper’s use of the “peak shift” effect jolts the viewer, reawakening one to the inherent intensity of experiencing the physical world through the senses. Conversely, the artist toys, like Baroque artists of the past, with the idea that intensity holds the potential for distortion, an overwhelming or numbing of the senses, or a kind of escapism leading to the “death of affect”—Roper’s work explores this dichotomy.
Born in 1982 in Knutsford, England, he received a BFA from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2005 and currently lives and works in Manchester. Solo exhibitions of his work include Into the Fold at Forster Gallery, London (2008). Selected group exhibitions include: Summer Group Exhibition, Joshua Liner Gallery, New York (2010); OCHO número atómico, Artspace, Barcelona (2009); and Ten at One, Forster Gallery, London (2007).