Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Comedy of Errors

Art Works: James Michie

20 September 12 words: James Michie

"An object that is familiar but altered is satisfying to me, like a good puzzle"

I don’t make as much art these days as I used to - just the occasional drawing, sculpture, or painting. I still think of drawing as the fundamental form of  art for me, and as a way of staying sane, painting, particularly, is very therapeutic. But about every two years I get an idea in my head that I can’t shake and it will nag away at me, and I have to make it so I can get it out of my head and move on with my life. These pieces are generally large free-standing works made of everyday materials - what you would call ‘installation’ art - which tells you very little about what kind of art it is, but does give you an idea of what it isn’t.

This last piece is “All Ball” - an icosahedron about three feet across made of doors and walls in a wooden frame that is displayed by suspending it on wires from the ceiling. Like most of my work it was a reconfiguring of the things around me. I like to work with the materials that are in the room or the area so what you notice in the work is the process the materials  have been through - not the materials themselves. You should be capable of using any material to make art, from crushed cans to gold leaf. It is the way you reconfigure and leave your mark on the material that gives it your signature.

I think everyday objects and ordinary materials work well in unusual configurations;  umbrellas made into giant balls, rain barrels and drainpipes made into giant insects, chairs and tables made into giant structures. They have a lovely oddness to them, as well as giving me the enjoyment of having turned something mundane into something out of the ordinary.

An object that is familiar but altered is satisfying to me, like a good puzzle: the brain has a starting point of associations with the familiar aspects of it and then runs up against the unfamiliar changes. It tries to make connections to them and finds not the old ones, but new connections. This isn’t a conscious questioning of, “Why has the artist done this?”, but the automatic work the brain does when it sees something it considers to be out-of-place: it attempts to make sense of the information it is given, it looks for patterns and exceptions to those patterns. And this is a nice feeling. A touch of confusion and a sense of wonder, along with conveying the simple joy of playing around with materials. It is the basis of what I am trying to get across with my work.

There is no cultural or political message in my art, unless that message is “Try to make the world a more beautiful place”,  because when I see a good piece of art it makes me want to go and create something unique myself. And if my work doesn’t always succeed in communicating that, then hopefully it fails in interesting ways.

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now