Nola James

Nola James BA (Hons) Fine Art 2020

Within my practice, I found that shifting the of emphasis from producing 'work', to instead 'working out' generated a much more interesting kind of production. By removing the need for completion, the work can be held in ‘a state of becoming rather than being’, as described by Jürgen Partenhiemer. For me, this manifests through processes of investigation and documentation, which in turn becomes the work. The majority of this work is born from considerations on time, place or language; systems which remain immeasurable and abstract. Grand assertions crumble here, rigidity invites fallibility. I prefer to approach these spaces with an understanding gleaned through poetics. A kind of sitting comfortably within blindness; happy to gently feel your way around a space whilst knowing there will always be information unavailable to you through touch alone. It’s this blindness which allows room for formulating your own understanding. Amy Sillman portrays this kind of making as ‘like a beaver building a thatch, rather than like someone with an overarching worldview. Maybe working this way means not necessarily making a truth-claim or asserting a “master” narrative or getting anywhere at all.’ The strength of poetics comes from its pliability, the fragility of a ‘master narrative’ in its lack of it.

This allergy to the definite becomes especially important when considering the main methods I use to conduct and record investigations are drawing or writing. These devices imbue neither accuracy nor obedience, but rather an immediacy which can often leave them feeling a little provisional. But much like the 'blindness' I mentioned earlier, provisionality contains the opportunity for error, misunderstanding, miscommunication and discontinuity. All factors which are needed to create space for the viewer to exist within the work, as I exist within it whilst making it. Sartre wrote that ‘poets are men who refuse to utilise language’ and this is similar to how I think of my own work. I do not expect the drawings, writings, images to preform for me, and they are not created with any expectation of illumination or utility. Instead, they act as methods of opening, of cracking ajar or squinting into the distance. Any lucky moment of frisson or apparent solution to the work is gained not from a neat, confident conclusion; but a successful act of opening. 

MAFA Award Winner