James Ross’ painting looks like solar shapes in orbit with cosmic blocks - Saturn’s ring of dust vapour spreads itself skyward, a thin ellipse amongst other objects, arranged to sit in a three dimensional plane. This is not what traditionalists consider painting to be (It’s art Jim, but not as we know it...).
During the last four years, Aucklander James Ross has been using a detail from Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting The Ambassadors. This elliptical shape is taken from a skull in the painting; the skull itself ‘... appears to hail from another dimension, threatening the decorum and logic of the painting, cracking the unity of an otherwise classic space, mocking achievements of the two gentlemen, rearranging their world, offering a different point of view.’ - Robert Leonard in Distance Looks Our Way
Its elliptical shape is a space breaker - it broke up the composition of Hans Holbein’s work and makes Ross’ work look three dimensional as it zooms to the top of the wall. The average bog-standard DIY painting does not zoom up a wall, its nicely controlled inside its frame, its frame positioned not too high and not too close to a window or door. In space terms its pretty safe, no frontiers crossed. The depth of Ross’ work is dynamic, pushing unconstrained by any need to stay inside the frame.
But wait, there’s more.
‘Modern art’ is a tradition that sets finished compositions in blocks (often in colour) up on the wall for people to contemplate. You sit. You look. The squares of colour blend a little as your eyes get tired. But it is still inscrutable blocks of flat colour on a bit of canvas or board.
His work unseen in Auckland for the last four years, Ross has developed, mutated. Inspired by cross-sections of the brain and psychological shapes used to test imaginative processes. The limits of the modernist painting are breached again, your perception of the work already contained within it.
→ Scanning the brain, New Zealand Herald, 14-08-1996
→ James Ross: Aide-mémoires, 1996, exhibition card