PRINT October 1985


A studio made en plein air. James Nares reaps the wind in golden green.

FOR THIS OCCASION JAMES MARES’ studio is not where he lives and works in New York but in southwest Ireland, where he’s been going with his family for the past twenty years a place studded with the occasional palm tree and relics from the past. One the Fingers stones otherwise known as the Three Ladies has an ancient provenance that is locally considered doubtful. Nares likes this questionable authericity. It compounds the interpretable nature of ancient things which act as a home base for the imaginings of his contemporary mind.

Originally Nares planned a Pu-ssu scroll painting—a landscape without likeness, or a landscape beyond likeness—but wind and rain beat out the lightweight paper brought over from New York. He gave in to the weather, changed his mood—something weather can do to us—and began to brush onto slates the “equivocal histories” he reaped from the wind: among them the Three ladies, a ship’ s eye, sperm antlers, and the dancing girl that is a recurring feature in his work. These fragments plucked from his musings travel the border between symbol and mystery, figuration and abstraction. Nares’ brush “hides the head and protect the tail,” riding the line between drawing and painting that must be present to pull off such a delicate matter.

Whether in his work in film, music, performance, or painting, rhythm (not melody) and timing (not expeditiousness) are the backbone of all Nares’ elegant gestures, acts of precision without regimentation. Nares sees no conflict of loyalty between painting and his work in other media. “The music allowed me to lose myself. The movies allowed me to find myself—to find my focus. Painting gave me the chance to ruminate.” This reflective quality is echoed here in his choice of materials. They exemplify light and darkness: the camera, one ink (black china ink), one metallic paint (golden green), and silvery roofing slates.

When he was finished Nares left the slates for his family—with a little more wind and rain they’ll no doubt become part of the artichitecture of the place and all its other unaccountable objects.

Ingrid Sischy