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Art & Life with Victoria James

Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria James.

Victoria, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in England, but grew up and spent most of my life in Switzerland. My passion for developing a visual language by which I could communicate to others without the need for words started in my early teens. I began by making marks on the pages of a sketchbook, without the intention of showing what I did to any other person. I would fill sketchbook upon sketchbook, trying to make visual sense of my muddling teens by pouring it onto those pages. When I gradually built the confidence to begin showing what I did to some trusted few, I was hugely touched by the fact that what I was depicting echoed meaning in them, regardless of whether or not that meaning matched my reasons for making it. I started to become fascinated by how each individual would draw their own meaning from the work according to their personal experience and perspective.

I had the good fortune of having a hugely inspiring and supportive art teacher in high school; he encouraged me to continue to develop my “visual language” and to apply for art college. I was accepted into Chelsea College of Art in London, an aspiring painter but was quickly switched into the Fine Art Sculpting course because I often mixed other materials into my paints to bring relief and dimension. I became interested in creating forms that were recognizable and yet distorted. I also experimented with making video, sound and large-scale installations with used objects where I was able to affect the way in which the public would experience and relate to an entire space. Things took off for me pretty fast towards the end of my college days, and I was soon showing internationally and was represented by two galleries. It was exciting at first, but I then struggled with what I perceived as a pressure to produce work that followed the same trend. I stopped producing art for several years, needing to withdraw from it completely and only coming back to it six years ago after a death in my family.

I was then drawn back to my initial love of drawing and painting, making marks and expressing myself through a work process that resembled the initial “visual journals” of my teens. I today paint and draw on paper, wood, and canvas. Writing has always been an integral part of my creative process. I have more recently begun to integrate words and phrases into my paintings; I weave discussions, stories, remarks, and reflections into the layers of painted colour. Sometimes the words are more apparent, sometimes less. Sometimes I write in French, sometimes in English – I grew up being bilingual.

I moved to Arizona two years ago, attracted by the idea of a change from Europe, the predominant sunshine, the vast expanses of nature and the promise of creative opportunity based on the artistic history of the Phoenix area.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I paint, I draw, I write, and I combine all of those together on either paper, wood or canvas. I would describe myself as a “visual storyteller” rather than a painter, though I mainly use paint to depict my visual message.
One of my main sources of inspiration has come from seeing the contrasts between light and darkness – from both a saturated and metaphorical point of view. One of the many things I love about now living in Arizona, with all the sunshine, are the dramatic and contrasting shadows that the sun’s intensity creates. Through my work, I hope to remind people of both the immense vibrant spectrum of colours and the contrast of inertness and darkness. My work today is generally abstract. I studied and learned how to apply classical rules of composition and structure which I use as the basis to the abstract images I produce. Through abstraction, I intentionally leave things open to interpretation; I am interested in conveying an image, idea or message which they can personally identify with enough but then make their own through their own interpretation.

Making art started as a necessity for me – it was a way to make sense of the world around me and a way to express what I felt unable to convey through words. It remains my main motivation in creating art today but is now combined with the knowledge gained through maturity that art is a necessity for many others and that what is personal to me, can and does touch and resonate in others in a way that fulfills and completes.

My work may not always appear as a “pretty picture” or something that is “easy to understand” but I am also interested in “speaking” to people about the less obvious, the imperfect, the things we all have but fumble to express to others. For me, art should inspire, provoke and cause us to personally reflect. What I make is hugely personal and individual; in return, I hope to communicate something intimate and personally touching to others. My motivation in making art is not to sell something that matches someone’s new sofa or curtains but to meet people and speak to them in a language which they can visually recognize because it resonates personally in them.

How do you think about success, as an artist, and what quality do you feel is most helpful?
I see success as a very temporary thing – it is for me an experience like any other: it can come and go at any moment. I call one of my works of art “a success” if I and at least one other person find meaning and some kind of beauty in its final outcome, even if only temporarily and it not necessarily being “pretty”! When an artist is able to convey something personally authentic and when that is communicated, understood, and acknowledged by others for what it means or resonates for them, I would call that success. I do not believe an artist can remain authentic and successful continuously over a long period of time without it somehow being to the detriment of their originality. Inevitably, when people see something they like in an artist, they most often want the artist to keep producing that same or similar thing, and if they don’t, it is often seen as something unsuccessful. I think this defies creativity which must constantly evolve and change for it to remain original and authentic to its author. So I suppose that I see an artist as being successful when they stay true to their own creative process and follow that rather than follow the promise of praise and payment.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I have shown my work internationally in both group and solo exhibitions; from alternative London galleries to Contemporary Art Centres, from pop-ups in remote Swiss farmhouses to international Art Fairs. My most recent exhibition was at Royse Contemporary in the Arts District of Old Town Scottsdale. My portfolio can be viewed on my website, and I use social media to record and present a visual journal of my creative process. I do not sell my artwork online. I may be old-fashioned on this one, but I get no pleasure from selling something that is so personal to me to an unknown person through the internet. Having said that, a great way to support my work and artistic journey is to follow it on social media platforms. When I first started as an artist, it was before the days of having online portfolios and online galleries. Much as I have embraced how online platforms have allowed the arts to gain so much greater exposure, I remain convinced that we need art to be experienced and seen in real life rather than virtual spaces if we want it to truly have any real impact and not get swallowed up in the sea of other imagery and abundance of virtual experience now available online. So another concrete way to support my work would be to offer the possibility of showing it in a “concrete” rather than “virtual” location.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Comet photos

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Kim Walker

    January 16, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    Great article – stunning visuals!

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