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Claerwen James is a painter and printmaker who was born in Cambridge in 1970. She originally trained as a molecular biologist at Oxford University, ICRF/UCL and Cold Spring Harbor, NY. She graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2003 and has won various awards, most notably the Slade School’s own Melvill Nettleship Prize for Figure Composition, previously awarded both to Gwen Ravarat and to Gwen John. She has been represented by Flowers Gallery London since 2006 and with them she has had numerous solo exhibitions, both in the UK and in the US.
James specialises in portraits, mostly of unknown young women. All originate as photographs: some scavenged, some taken by the artist, who believes that the awkwardness of the photographic moment is crucial to the painful, elegiac quality of the paintings.
In 2006, Francis Spufford wrote that Claerwen James’ subject matter is, in a sense, the photographic moment, when a point in time is snatched from the flow, “sealed into stillness and set in strange relationship to the continued life… which we do not see in photographs but which they always imply, giving the medium its mortal edge.”
Claerwen James, Summer Painting, Girl With Pale Hair. (2018). Oil on Canvas
‘The Cambridge Show’ brings together work by twenty-two artists who live or work in and around Cambridge. Showcasing a cross-section of the artistic community operating in the local area, from photography to performance, the exhibition will explore these artists’ diverse practices, and some of the themes and issues that they are engaging with right now.
Claerwen James, Summer Painting, Girl With Pale Hair, (2018). Photo: Antonio Parente, courtesy the artist and Flowers Gallery.
Claerwen James, Girl in a Leotard against Pale Blue (2018). Photo: Antonio Parente, courtesy the artist and Flowers Gallery.
Claerwen James, Girl in a White Dress with a Butterfly (2018). Photo: Antonio Parente, courtesy the artist and Flowers Gallery.