James White presents eight new paintings on acrylic faced aluminum honeycomb panels, which in turn are mounted in voluminous plexiglass boxes. They are all kept to the same intimate medium format and are arranged as four horizontal formats and four portrait formats. However, the image on display is always oriented horizontally. In this exhibition, White's photorealistic paintings are consistently executed in black and white to show close up interior shots.
The landscape formats portray incidental snapshots in temporarily appropriated spaces. The impersonality of the decor suggests hotel rooms but a closer look corrects this random impression. The paintings are strategically aligned to the material qualities of the depicted objects and open up unusual perspectives onto the objects that surround us every day.
White dedicates two of the horizontal formats to bathrooms, with their glossy surfaces and refined light and shadow situations. The grain of the wood panels, the marble countertops, reflecting mirrors, metal rods, light refraction in water glasses, cardboard and cellophane, dull plastic or soft towels impress through their materiality within the possibilities of painting.
The portrait formats, in turn, could have come from anywhere : a sheet of crumpled paper in the artists studio, a ceiling fan in a hotel room photographed with strong flash, a collection of extendable mirrors for bathrooms that are stacked against each other in a storeroom, another extendable mirror partially reflects a circular window.
Most of the paintings include at least one mirror and there are many reflective surfaces which open the narrowly focused scene into another dimension. This allows the viewer the illusion or a distorted notion of what is beyond the image space which evokes associations with film and its techniques: in cutaway shots the camera briefly fixes on an object related to the main action to change the pace or mood of the scene. The narrative continues outside the image area or a parallel plot is introduced. This also seems to be the case with White’s images, what is implied or inferred becomes the real subject matter of the work. It is up to us to further imagine the room with its occurrences and to fill it with meaning.
This disjointed impression is enhanced by the white bars that are placed on three sides around the horizontal image sections. The sharp white edges mark the end of each section, yet the space continues. White thus adds a confusing graphic element to his paintings. The "pages" are designed so that they might also suggest the lay-out of an art catalogue. It could also be suggested that White humorously refers to Walter Benjamin, using the medium of his exceedingly precise painting to pose the question as to the uniqueness of the painting due to its technical reproducibility.
In their shiny black and white, the works exude a quiet, thoughtful intimacy, inviting the viewer to meditate. At the same time they seem aseptic with their clinically white bars, separated from the outside and locked away behind vitrine like plexiglass. In these new paintings White further emphasizes the object quality of his work with the plexiglass boxes allowing a clear view of the specifically constructed substrate – a look behind the scenes.