Merlin James’s work has been the subject of increased critical and curatorial attention in recent years. His recent solo exhibitions include CCA, Glasgow; Douglas Hyde Gallery; Parasol Unit, London and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; in 2007, he represented Wales at the 52nd Venice Biennale. His work has also been acquired by important public and private collections, most recently the Dallas Museum of Art, TATE, London and Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris.
To the Present provides an eclectic survey of James’s career to date. Presenting work from over several decades, it aims to showcase the complexities and multi-faceted nature of James’s practice, including his ‘frame paintings’ on light, translucent surfaces, alongside denser painting on canvas and works on paper. Many of the works in To the Present return to the landscape genre, with vernacular architecture surfacing as a recurring motif, but James’s practice also includes varied and idiosyncratic still life paintings, domestic interiors and erotic scenes.
James approaches the history and legacy of painting with a highly considered and unconventional viewpoint. As commented by Artforum’s Sherman Sam in February 2016, his work ‘has sought to rigorously promlematise the experience of painting while simultaneously deepening its formal language’. Often distressed, pierced, cropped or heavily overpainted, the works in To the Present refine and renew many of painting's most time-honoured concerns – genre and narrative, pictorial space and expressive gesture, the emotive resonance of colour and texture.