Artist Spotlight: Roi James
This marks the first in a new monthly series I’ll be writing on some of my favorite artists. The subjects may be living or dead, famous or relatively unknown. What they will all have in common is a special quality in their work that I respect, admire and find beautiful in some way.
The first in this series is a painter named Roi James who is based in Austin, TX. I’ve known Roi for a decade. The first painting I saw of his was very much in the style of an old-world master, but with a bit of an ethereal twist. As it happens, he was just completing that phase and beginning his move into a more abstract form of expression in both paintings and constructs. I was even more taken with his new work.
As part of my interior design practice I often help clients build art collections, and over the years I’ve purchased dozens of Roi’s pieces for my clients while witnessing the development and evolution of his work. It’s been a delightful journey for me. And according to Roi, a delightful one for him as well.
I recently spoke with Roi about his work and thought I would share that conversation with you here.
MC: How did you come to be a professional artist?
RJ: I had the ability to draw very well from my earliest days but I was never really interested in becoming an artist. It was music that I first approached, but in my 20s, it became clear to me that the life of a musician was too difficult for my temperament. So I went back to school to study computers and took a life drawing class as an elective. I was hooked in the first 30 seconds. After that I made my first attempts at copying old master works, then took some semi-private lessons to hone my old master technique. But I knew I had to find my own voice and began exploring original work which was greatly influenced by classical painting. A gallery in Austin saw my work and offered me a show, and 9 months later at the age of 35 I had my first show which was an extraordinary success. Three years later, in 1998, I quit my job and became a full time painter.
MC: I’ve known you for close to a decade. During that time, what would you say has been the driving force behind your work?
RJ: Painting is one of those things where I cannot NOT do it. I have always had strong impulse to be creative so I approach everything from the standpoint of creating. It’s simply something that I can’t deny without denying a central part of who I am.
MC: Has your inspiration changed or evolved over the past 10 years?
Absolutely. I’ve found that as I evolve and grow as a person, my work reflects those changes. I’ve always felt myself to be on a spiritual path so it’s in my nature to cultivate growth and understanding there. Painting is an outward manifestation of that journey. In a way, I see my work as a diary that chronicles, in a symbolic way, the understanding and changes I make in life along the way. So in the early part of my career, where my focus was on tradition and discipline, my work was built around those principles. And I realized my paintings in figurative and landscape work owing a great deal to work that had come before me. This was an important part of my journey.
But, as I continued to grow, it became apparent that those traditions no longer suited me. And I was more interested in freedom, exploration, and trusting in the uncertain. So my work evolved into abstraction and an iconography that reflected those ideas. Meditations, Choreographies, Constructs, Breath Painting, etc. It was at this point that I felt I was beginning to know my own unique voice.
MC: Are you hoping to convey something specific to your audience? Do you want them to see or experience the work in any particular way?
RJ: My work has always been firmly grounded in physical beauty. Regardless of what arena I’m playing in, the work is imbued with my idea of beauty. I find when I gaze into a painting’s beauty, it entrances me and holds me in the state of the sublime, where I feel a deep connection with some knowledge or awareness, yet I cannot adequately find words to express it. It simply is in the moment, an understanding. It is a deeply satisfying state to experience and that is where I hope to take my audience. It’s a painting’s ability to create this experience that defines it as a success to me.
Well that’s a wrap for this first in a series of artist spotlights.
If you find yourself visiting Austin, with a little advance notice, Roi James welcomes visitors for private showings of his paintings and constructs in various states of completion. Both the work and the artist are delightful and come with my high recommendation. http://www.roijames.com