When any form of art resonates deeply with an individual, it can be a gateway to finding one's true self- and that's the ideology that British-American artist Anthony James has interwoven within his body of work over the years.
Having fiddled with the many ways light and space can be combined to create visual art, James has always placed spiritual awareness at the center of his work. Indeed, his ability to work with mirrors and reflective surfaces have been created with the hope that the viewer is able to look beyond physical reflections.
"I guess, if there's a message for it [my work], it is that if you're looking for something from the exterior world, you're never going to find what you're looking for," James said in an interview with Entrepreneur Middle East. "You have to look within... It's never the exterior. Whether you're looking at the complete unity of the cosmos, or just the divinity inside oneself, there is a unity, a oneness from the smallest fragments that make the cosmos."
It is this sense of seeking the truth within oneself that has formed the essence of James' first solo exhibition in the UAE titled Ligh t, which is being showcased at the Opera Gallery in Dubai International Financial Center. Running until March 21, 2023, Light showcases a curated selection of James' standalone sculptures, mural pieces, and furniture, with each of these geometrically diverse pieces offering their own unique narratives on the concepts of mysticism, ethereality, spirituality, and science. "I've put a section together of what I consider my classical artworks, as well as pieces that have never been seen before," James notes.
24" Dodecahedron (Gold) by Anthony James. Source: Anthony James/Opera Gallery Dubai
There are works such as the 24" Dodecahedron in Gold, a nonagon-shaped sculpture. Also, there is the 33" Pyramid in Solar Black (Solar Black), 2023, which is a dark pyramid-like piece. Both of these pieces use steel, LED lights and double-sided glasses. James used the same materials to build the 69' Dali Cube, which is an interconnected collection of cubes, as a demonstration of his ability in creating diverse geometric structures. The 40" Bullet Panel 2023 is a mural made entirely of polished stainless steel. The 40" Round Rain Painting (Aluminum Panel 2023) 2023 is a painting that can be mistakenly taken as a photograph.
33" Pyramid (Solar Black), 2023 by Anthony James. Source: Anthony James/Opera Gallery Dubai
James states that his decision not to add new sculptures and paintings in Dubai to his exhibition was more strategic than creative. He explains, "What I noticed was that when I moved my studios, and my practice, my artwork also changed." "I noticed the differences between the New York artwork I made and the Los Angeles artwork I made, as well as the London or Munich artworks that I made. Dubai is where I fell in love. I will be staying at least one month. Maybe I'll stay longer and create a lot of art here. We'll see how that artwork turns out.
Speaking of locations, James is today the only living artist to have showcased sculptures and paintings on all seven continents- and that includes Antarctica. Indeed, in February 2023, James' orb-like sculpture 60″ Rectified Truncated Cuboctahedron (Solar Black) was installed at British luxury travel company White Desert's newest base camp on the icy continent. "Antarctica is possibly the only place on the planet that looks like a different planet than what you're on," he recalls. "This time of the year, it has 24 hours of sunshine of the brightest light, so bright that it burns your eyes, and outside, you see just ice and blue skies with silhouettes of the mountains. But again, there's a serenity in the infinity of this constant light, and this constant ice; you can almost feel the rigor of the cosmos."
James' efforts in the art field have made enough noise that he is now well-known by Hollywood stars. The movie Knives Out, Glass Onion, starring Daniel Craig, featured one of his artworks. James recalls that although I don't normally lend artworks, the movie's producer reached out to me and asked if he could use one of his works. He found it inspiring. The piece was sent to them, and they kept it for a few years. Then I saw the movie and was amazed when they gave me the center piece of their amazing glasshouse set. My artwork was not presented as a part of the set, but was rather a character. I was very grateful for that.
James is adamant that he does not believe James has a business-mindset when making art. He has witnessed his work used in such commercial vehicles. He says, "I cannot really differentiate myself from my art; I'm just very fortunate that people respond well to my artwork and get something out it." It's great to see school children in museums. Or when I have a conversation about my artwork with someone like you or the director of a museum. I am very grateful for the universal language I have discovered. My artwork is dedicated to that. As I mentioned, I cannot really distinguish myself from my artwork, so it's impossible to apply a business model.
Anthony James - 40 inch Round Rain Painting (Aluminum Panel), 2023 Source: Anthony James/Opera Gallery Dubai
James stresses that he does not want to dictate how his work is viewed by others. The viewer is responsible for creating inspiration. This is his advice to all artists trying to make their mark. James states that your only responsibility is to show up each day, no matter what day brings. Your responsibility is to show up every day and continue. It's all in the repetition. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it takes a few years. But if you keep practicing, eventually something amazing will happen.