ROCOCO ELITIST STYLES OF BEAUTY IN TODAY’S URBAN COUNTERCULTURE: AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES MYLNE

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1. Tell us a little about your upcoming show Grandly Grimey at the Westbank Gallery. 

It’s my biggest solo exhibition ever. I started work on it in early February! It’s bringing a lot of different areas of what I’m about as an artist together. I’ve been experimenting with different media and styles for the last few years and finally I can bring the culmination of what I’ve learned into one coherent show. 

Grandly Grimey is a bit about me. I’ve grown up in a middle class family but I was born in London, which I’ve called home my whole life. I belong to both worlds of modern urban life and old school privilege and belong to neither at the same time. Grandly Grimey is exploring and expressing the dichotomy of this reality in a much more expansive, exaggerated way.

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" I belong to both worlds of modern urban life and old school privilege and belong to neither at the same time. Grandly Grimey is exploring and expressing the dichotomy of this reality in a much more expansive, exaggerated way. "

 

2. From inspirational sources such as Tibetan Buddhism, Street Art & Fashion Photography, what suddenly made you turn your attention to classical ideals of beauty and rococo paintings ? 

Those sources of inspiration are macroscopic, over-arching themes that I draw upon in different ways and amounts depending on what I happen to be focusing on at a time.

My last big solo exhibition with a gallery was Vintage Vogue at Rook & Raven a few years ago. With that body of work I looked back in time to the mid 20th century to bring ideas of beauty captured through early fashion photography into the more contemporary context. I’m doing a very similar thing with this solo exhibition Grandly Grimey, except looking further back in time to bring ideas of beauty captured through paintings into a more complex, urban, alternative contemporary world. 

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3. Will this September’s exhibition purely feature your signature photo-realistic ballpoint images or is there something else in store ?

For the first time since art college I’m putting work onto fabric, it’s a very different process. That’s the good thing about beginning work so far ahead of an exhibition date; I’ve had time to research and explore new stuff.

Most of the artworks do fall back onto my ballpoint techniques, but I have used paintbrushes and collage more than ever before to compliment the drawing work. A couple of people who have seen the work so far have expressed surprise at how much color there is compared to what they’ve seen before with me.

There will also be a 15-minute video playing on a loop from a projector. I’ve gotten into video editing the documentation material I generate from the creative process. That can be insightful & fun for people to watch amongst the artworks.

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4. What is your earliest memory of being creative? Do you recall the first thing you ever drew ?

The earliest thing I remember drawing with actual intention and patience was an urban skyline with moody clouds and lightning above. I must have been six.

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5. Using ballpoint pen means there is no room for mistakes. How long does it take you to complete a piece on average and have you ever made a crucial mistake half way through a work ?

" On average I spend about 60-70 hours on a drawing. The most I’ve spent is about 310 hours on one. "

It’s been a while since I’ve forced myself to start again after having spent a long time drawing it. I think the last major one was a drawing I did for BIC, The Girl With The Pearl Earring, I had to start that again after having completed a lot of it. I remember snapping the ballpoint in half in frustration, haha. 

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6. You have collaborated with so many famous photographers & musicians in the past. What was your most memorable collaboration and why ?

I did a collaboration with a street artist for one of my drawings. He painted the background and I draw the foreground. This was a while back. It was an important experience for me because, as it was my first proper collaboration, it showed me that the only way to find new possibilities in terms of creating unique work is to just make one, or at least to just start one.

 

7. In your opinion, what role do artists play in today’s society ? 

In times past and today, artists have always played a role in inspiring everyday people, documenting important developments and initiating alternative forms of thinking.

" What’s different perhaps about today compared to the old days is that artists have taken on the added responsibility of fighting censorship and exploring taboos. "

James Mylne
Westbank Gallery

Grandly Grimey
22 to 29 September
Westbank Gallery
Notting Hill, London W10 5XL

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