23rd May | 4.30pm
Shani Rhys James grew up in the theatre. Her mother was an actress and she considered following in her footsteps before going instead to St Martin’s School of Art. Her paintings, with their reds and blacks, flock wallpaper and floral bouquets, appear like stage sets into which female protagonists stray and, all too often, become trapped. Her works are not necessarily self-portraits, but amalgams of memories or feelings.
Rhys James paints wholeheartedly, directly on to the canvas, with no real preconception of how a work will look once finished. The oil is thick and slathered on with palette knives, brushes and fingers, before being drawn into or cut across. She doesn’t believe in pretty pictures, and her flowers are certainly not delicate feminine motifs, but memento mori, cut from their life source, beautiful and intoxicating, but dying. Sometimes they are so large, so sculpted, they become personae in their own right.
In conversation with Anna McNay, Rhys James will talk about the painting process; her own particular form of melancholia, which especially infuses her still lives; her palette; her decision to live in rural Wales and France and the effect this has on her work; and her recent residency in New York.
About Shani Rhys James
Shani Rhys James was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1953, and moved to the UK with her mother when she was nine. She studied at Loughborough College of Art and Design and Saint Martin’s School of Art, London. She later moved to Powys to live and work, taking her young family with her. Rhys James is an elected member of the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art. In 1994 she won the BP Portrait Prize and, in 2003, she won the Jerwood Painting Prize. In the 2006 New Years Honours she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for ‘services to art’. Rhys James has exhibited across Europe, in the USA, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. She is represented by the Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff and Connaught Brown, London. In 2014 she was a subject of BBC4’s What Do Artists Do All Day? documentary.
About Anna McNay
Anna McNay is a freelance art writer and editor. She is Deputy Editor at State Media and Arts Editor at DIVA magazine. She contributes regularly to Studio International, Photomonitor and The Mail on Sunday and has been widely published in a variety of other print and online art and photography journals and newspapers.
This event is free and open to the public but seating is limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.