Born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Nathan James spent much of his life in the Toronto area before moving to London, UK where he currently lives and works. His current series of paintings, Riff Raff, are based on the idea of Pessimist Pop. A reaction to the highly-polished, busy, celebratory work of Koons, Murakami et al, James’ paintings deal in the same sort of bold shapes and cultural iconography, but look at the underbelly of these images and contextualizes them in a real, unforgiving world. Painting in oil (often making his own paints) onto canvas or linen, James focuses on the lives and worlds of the underclass, failures, perverts and slackers, rather than beautiful, successful people. Bleak comedy and personal tragedy sit uncomfortably close together in James’ characters, which draw on both the failed industrial background of his childhood in Ontario and the current mood of insecurity and paranoia present in contemporary society. Joining up an almost old-fashioned, painterly approach to his art with very modern ideas of representation and humour, Riff Raff is both deeply personal and also a document of lives, habits, problems and people who modern art usually overlooks.
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