James Marshall - Biography
James Marshall, a British citizen and UK resident who formerly resided in New York City for 15 years, is driven to create by influences gleaned from strong ties to both of his homelands - the communities, memories, and social interactions that surround and have shaped him. Eight years of Marshall’s career were spent as a filmmaker where he produced film projects including The American Dream Project and American Doers. In a world often over-saturated with direction from media and publicity, Marshall’s past and present projects are dedicated to proving that amidst the conformity of our mainstream society exist individuals who have worked hard and broken the mould to achieve their dreams and improve the world around them. These individuals embody their own stories of breaking out of the cycle that is the norm. They highlight personal journeys of going against the grain to find one’s own meaning and purpose, a theme that resonates with the artist himself and is also evident in his paintings.
Spans of time between pitching for and working with crews on various film projects during the summer of 2017 led James to begin pouring his creative energy into the physical act and emotional outlet of painting, where he explored the previously mentioned themes. That same year, Marshall began selling his work privately and was quickly offered an opportunity to hold his first solo selling exhibition at a gallery in the bustling West Village of Manhattan in New York City. The success and support received during his first exhibition propelled his growth into establishing an international client base. He has placed works with and has created commissions for collectors from Manhattan and The Hamptons to Tennessee in the US as well as Oxford, Windsor, Eton and London in the UK. Marshall’s inaugural series, The Rebel Dot, remains popular. All available works from this series offered at the London Affordable Art Fair in 2022 were sold. He is represented in three fine art galleries across London in Marylebone, Clapham, and Eton.
Marshall’s series and compositions echo his visceral response to the ideas of precision versus chaos, uniformity and influence versus nonconformity and uniqueness, and the complexities woven throughout heritage and culture. Sections of his series focus on human nature and outside influence, on both personal and macro levels, noting that an objection to societal conformation rooted in the desire for personal authenticity exists within the same space as the constant pressure to fit in. Marshall’s work explores these themes through shape, colour, and texture—each brushstroke a representation of confinement or freedom, certainty or uncertainty, influence or individuality, sometimes all at once. According to the artist, his works are “the most honest and pure way (he’s) ever expressed (himself)”. Both visually pleasing and genuine, Marshall’s paintings offer viewers a chance to think and feel more deeply, to consider their yearnings and connections to both themselves and the larger community around them, as James Marshall has done for himself and so boldly shared through his canvases.
Comical, a series Marshall began in 2022, investigates the innocence of childhood through the anchor of the comic book. Comic book pages are plastered across the canvases, representative of adolescence - innocent, impressionable, unaware and unprepared for what life has in store beyond that moment.
The first work in the series, BEANO, visually depicts the loss of this innocence as a clawed monster reaches from both sides of the canvas to shove the representations of childhood into its horrific and yellow toothed mouth. Accompanying the monster are other vices and obstacles to retaining childhood innocence – inside hearts, the chemical symbols for cocaine and Adderall are scattered around the canvas, two drugs that seem to be omnipresent and have indirectly effected Marshall’s life.
More symbols and words scribed in Latin such as violence, greed, and validation further interject themes and events that the once innocent child, now exposed to adulthood, must face.
To balance the maturity and intensity of these themes, Marshall’s work consistently strikes with playfulness and subtle positives. Angel wings, a halo, Latin phrases such as “one must master oneself to master the world.” And of course, the monster has not actually eaten the Beano, the BEANO remains bright.
The Rebel Dot series represents the juxtaposition between conformity and non-conformity within society. It is easy to think you are living a life you’ve chosen, when in actuality you are not living your true life or purpose. The colorful grid-like individual dots, when you zoom the lens out, are on a predictable conveyor belt, matching and mirroring one another as they are expected to or have been influenced to be. Marshall felt this in his own life and knew he would regret not taking control to break out of expectation and this cyclical unconscious conformity – to revisit himself as inherently unique before heavy societal influence.
The rebel dot is this freedom through personal choice and action. The rebel dot does what the rebel dot wants to do. The uniform dots are so precise that it allows visual and metaphorical space for the rebel dot to roam and explore. Earlier works in the series show the rebel dot slightly out of position, rising up or nearly at the edge of the canvas. As the series has evolved, the rebel dot will occasionally find its way to a hidden part of the canvas, only to be discovered in the ultimate rebel placement once the viewer becomes curious enough to find it.