Florida based multi-media artist James R. Wilkinson is a world traveler with an extended and eclectic body of work that crosses boundaries with original expressions in photography, painting and writing. His intrinsic technique of overlapping, ethereal shapes from nature implores imagery reminiscent of cubism and elements of abstract expressionism in a deconstructive and often varied manner. He is interested in intimacy and sensuality, of the bond between a present that is informed as much with his own perspective of world culture as a direct comment on the contemporary landscape of America’s unraveling of personal and behavioral activism. The finished visual appearance of his works are characterized by a concentration of singular expression rooted in unpredictability and ordered chaos; this system remains stable in relation to the confines of the painting, photograph or written page but can become unstable at any moment in the casual space of the observer.
The phrase edge of chaos, as described by Wikipedia.org was coined by mathematician J. Doyne Farmer and, in the sciences in general, refers to a metaphor that some physical, biological, economic and social systems operate in a region between order and either complete randomness or chaos, where the complexity is maximal. Here, in regards to Wilkinson’s work and overall style, the title informs the viewer of the spaces defined by the artist that exist between unintentional (random) and indefinable (chaos). Furthermore, as represented by the artist, the work might best be better understood and a formalized style defined by a grasp of the techniques of abstract expressionism, cubism, and deconstructivism or in the inherent works of Chagall, Jacques Villon, Jacques Derrida and Bernard Tschumi. Of particular interest is the way in which Russian and French art and architecture inform Wilkinson’s overall aesthetic though it is unclear whether this is intentional or a result of influential confluence.
In “95” Wilkinson invites the viewer into and irregular geometric space poised as if teetering over a chasm of opposing angles. Gestured strokes form the basis of an unfinished foundation like a toothless mouth ready to devour the more structured central image. Essentially figurative, Wilkinson populates this space with a male and female caricature genuflecting before an alter-like assemblage of food stuff topped with the familiar ananthropomorphic image of the Planters logo and mascot, Mr. Peanut. These shapes are contained in a one-dimensional surface detail and night sky that envelops the scene and hosts what might be construed as a thought balloon containing martini glass and shaker; perched above is a halo adding further credibility to religious and spiritual symbolism often characterized or scrutinized in Wilkinson’s work.
In addition to painting, Wilkinson frequents photo manipulation and montage, often returning to figurative and abstract expression through a technique of repeated layering, excising and distributed examination of imagery found in natural settings. Often interested in the intersection between portraiture and landscape, his work is intended to juxtapose the temporality of the present with lasting visage and symbolism inherent in documented history. “Snapshots” are frequently used as a starting place for further refinement, collage and distribution to create the groundwork for interpretation. Through fine manipulation of contrast, tonal values and radiance, Wilkinson achieves complex and intricate patterns both highlighted as well as contrasted by shapes and texture of his own creation. The end result is a blurring of the surfaces of opposing representations that are joined to form a retooling of the familiar.
In “Mr. Odell Watching” Wilkinson combines a fascination with the natural world with the pursuit of the unnatural as represented by images most often associated with the Green Man motif; Green Men, according to Wikipedia.org, are “commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical)”. Returning to themes of religious and spiritual symbolism, ancient cultures and personal travels throughout Europe and Asia are direct influences here and attest to the importance of diversity in the work.
The dynamism and diversity in Wilkinson’s repertoire is vast and fluid. While familiar imagery and technique can be found in each stage of his work, there is also an intentional exploration of new media and a renewed sense of play in his photo work. Methodology is less important overall for Wilkinson. Whether he is painting or employing various photographic techniques, the work is directly informed and nurtured by an interest in subjects rather than style. A complete understanding and appreciation for Wilkinson’s work can only truly be appreciated through return visits and at best, a gallery show and an opportunity to discuss the work more fully with the artist. Though he prefers smaller boutique engagements, Wilkinson’s work has shown in galleries around the United States and overseas and can be found in the private collections of mindful enthusiasts and collectors near and far.