Tell us a little about yourself. When I was 8 years year’s old I had my first artwork published in a local magazine. They printed it upside down because they didn’t know what it was supposed to be. A few years ago, I moved from London to Sweden to live in perpetual darkness. That’s when I also started painting over record covers. Then more recently I moved to New York to live in the tiny apartment where I now currently reside. I thought my British accent would make me special out here, but no-one really notices because there’s tons of Brits in NY. So many that my local Deli sells Mint Aeros and Digestive biscuits at a 200% mark up.
Your work is deeply related with popular culture. How did that link become part of your artistic identity? Pop culture is all the good stuff. So many great memories are linked to movies, music and books. It’s impossible not to be visually influenced by pop culture. From creepy 80s cartoons to rave flyers to VHS movie covers, all of it’s lurking in my visual psyche somewhere. Art and design is everywhere in pop culture. And now pop culture seems to be everywhere in art.
What attracted you to paint over records? Do you paint over other surfaces too? Starting with a blank canvas is hard. So, when you’ve got an interesting image like a record cover to begin with, the ideas start popping more organically. Just like collage, I make connections with the imagery. I look a cover and go, yep, it’s obvious – I need to paint spaghetti over this dude’s face. Records are just the perfect canvas, they’re a great size and I love imagery I have to play with. I have experimented with painting over other printed surfaces, but there’s just something about vintage record covers I always come back to. There’s a beautiful naivety to a lot of 60s/70s records that I don’t find in other visual materials. The haircuts, the poses, the clothes, old record covers are full of fun stuff to work with. Often, the more obscure the artist, the better the cover. Some of best stuff I found in junk shops when I lived in Sweden. Swedish folk albums were like gold dust for painting over.
Your work can be related visually with collage, but is paint based. How do you feel both techniques interact in your work? I love the randomness of collage, how two unrelated images can be combined to create a new context, almost by chance. Adding paint to the process gives me a bit more freedom to create the images I want. I’m not limited to what I cut out of a magazine. I also like the uncertainty of paint. I can start with an idea all mapped out in my head, but when I start painting I might have to rethink it. Some of my favourite pieces are ones that I really messed up, before starting again.
Which is your definition of collage? When two worlds collide.
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about you / your work? You can see more of my work at connollyjames.com and follow me on Instagram: @Connollyjames_