James Roper

Acrylic on canvas

Statement by James Roper

The construction of each painting fuses disparate images from a variety of sources such as fashion magazines, animation stills, comics, the Internet as well as my own photo's and drawings. I predominantly choose images and try to create forms which I feel register a visual 'peak shift', a term given to the phenomena of 'neurological attraction' that appears in both humans and animals to an extreme characterisation of an object. Peak shift has been suggested by the neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran as one of the '10 universal laws of art'.

This peakshift is present within advertising, Hollywood blockbusters and Haute couture fashion as well as in the extreme forms of body exaggeration found in bodybuilding and pornography. Japanese animation, which also uses this technique, has for some time informed my painting style and is where I appropriated images exclusively for my 'Hypermass' series. By isolating out what I see as the crucial parts of such images and collaging them together into the work my intention is to intensify these visual triggers even further so they form a sort of neurological hyperactivity.

Another hyper-stylistic visual form which has informed my painting is that of Catholic iconography from the Baroque period, specifically in the sculptural work of Bernini. Bernini used the technique of exaggeration in the folds in robes, body structure and cloud formations to express an abstract form of 'spiritual energy'. But in contrast to their subjects stoic origins the aesthetic of Bernini's work manifests as lustful and extremely materialistic, and within the theatrical architecture of the cathedral or church (the expressive Baroque style has part of its genesis in opera), acts more as a form of psychological escapism than that of a form through
which religious truth can be revealed. Religion constructed as a Baudrillardian hyperreality in which intensified or peakshifted models of reality seem 'more real than real' and the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred. But, what seems at first to be a form of escapism from the 'Desert of the Real' can also act as a stimulus to wake us up to reality. Just as the Zen master hits his student and as a result the student attains his enlightenment, a jolt in the senses via an intensified version of reality can allow us to see how intensely real and visceral our direct physical relationship with our world really is.

This proliferation of peakshift within the Baroque, as well as modern media, is a signifier of our apparent need for extreme forms of sensory stimulation which can adversely lead to what the author J.G. Ballard described as 'The Death of Affect'. Another indication of this is just the shear saturation of images we are all exposed to particularly across the Internet where I predominantly find the images to put into my work. I have found though that the more images I have intentionally bombarded myself with the more successful I am in refining them down, allowing what I see as only the most vital visual forms to filter through into the work.

As Ballard described in such novels as 'Crash' and 'The Atrocity Exhibition', I have similarly explored this theme through the structure and landscape of the body, how our bodies move through our environment and their physical relationship to architectural forms as well as the immediate folds in the fabric of our clothes. Also the fetishism of inanimate objects and the fusion of body and object or self and other which is apparent within many religious practices especially in Eastern Philosophy. This inter-connection between the internal and external can also be seen in Deleuze's concept of the fold:

“The outside is not a fixed limit but a moving matter animated by peristaltic movements, folds and foldings that together make up an inside: they are not something other than the outside, but precisely the inside of the outside.” (Deleuze – Foucault)

Ancient theologies worked through a process of mental dissection and analysis of an apparent self, intending to peel off the layers of our gross physical body to reveal a divine soul beneath in order that we could release this bound entity and find spiritual exaltation. Instead having dissected ourselves and unfolded our physical reality through the progress of science we have found nothing but sparking synapses, molecular structures and subatomic particles leading to an eventual slide into the chaos of quantum physics.

In contrast to El Greco's ushering of the spirit towards the heavens my paintings spit, ejaculate, regurgitate and projectile vomit the spirit out, rejecting it's bodily form in a fit of maniacal hysterics, a nonsensical reflexive outburst like the spasmodic speaking in tongues of those 'slain in the spirit'.

-James Roper


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