Personal clutter given photorealist treatment for James White shots at Max Wigram Gallery

By Mark Sheerin | 18 June 2010
A black and white painting of a pint of milk, box of teabags, teaspoon and iPhone on a table

(Above) James White, Milk and stuff (2010). Oil and varnish on birch-ply in Perspex box frame

Exhibition: James White – New Paintings, Max Wigram Gallery, London, until July 17 2010

There are things most people would not bother to photograph and would never think to paint. Tea bags, pints of milk, toothpaste and coat hangers fall under that heading, but they all crop up in a new show by James White.

This artist photographs his mundane subjects and then paints them, travelling no further than the studio or the hotel room for most of his inspiration.

Most of the scenes contain clutter. At least two are painted in the middle of the night. And, perhaps surprisingly, a Prada shirt and an iPhone find their way into two of the glum compositions.

When you put all these still lives together, you get a curious self portrait. White appears to be an untidy nomad with a touch of insomnia and a taste for designer goods.

A black and white painting of hangers in a near empty wardrobe

James White, Hangers (Away) (2010). Oil and varnish on birch-ply in Perspex box frame

You could accuse the painter of solipsism or a failure of imagination, but it seems rather that those are his themes in as far as he has any. He represents his myopia by painting discarded spectacles, his insularity by painting an iPod and his fragile link to the outside world, perhaps, by painting a radio mended with gaffer tape.

White's subjects are rendered in subtle black and white tones and with photorealist precision. Each is then set apart by a box-like Perspex frame. They become charged with meaning in the three or so weeks he will spend on each painting.

This is especially true of two works: From the Top Down and Hospital. Choosing camera angles which push the words towards abstraction, we are given steps leading down into darkness and the heavenly white lights of an operating theatre ceiling.

Both suggest the world beyond the studio or the hotel is a scary, fatal place to be. This just leaves White with his meagre personal effects, meditating on solitude.

Admission free. Open 10am-6pm Tuesday-Friday (12pm-5pm Saturday). Max Wigram Gallery, New Bond Street, London. Visit the Gallery online or call 020 7495 4960.

Images courtesy the artist and Max Wigram Gallery

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