At first glance these works look like they could pass for 16th century still life paintings, yet they are photographs and Alexander James goes to great lengths to create the perfect work in astonishing detail.
James took us through the technique of how these works are created and it’s truly astounding. All of the tableaux are assembled within giant tanks of water, ripples are then created on the surface with paintbrushes and the work is immortalised in a photograph. It’s a remarkably complex and precise process that can take months of set-up just to produce a single photograph – often only a single snapshot will be taken before the assemblage is destroyed.
The butterflies featured are bred by the artist, placed in a state of suspended animation and then delicately placed in the water so it appears as if they’re resting on a flower or fluttering around them. Once removed from the water, they will spring back to life unfazed and ready to create the next generation for James to photograph.
Even the flowers are left suspended in water for days so that their pigment slowly leaches away providing for a clearer view of the vessels within the petals, and resulting in a glass-like ethereal feel to them.
Our favourite work features a fox wrapped around a candelabra made semi-transparent by the rippling water while its candles are nearly burnt out. This tableau of impermanence is bolstered by the fox sporting a cheeky grin as if it’s still alive and captures a transient moment in between life and death.
James told us that the “more he blurs the boundaries, the more people want to explore” and we’re in no doubt that visitors will gaze in wonderment as they try to pick out the subtle intricacies in each work.
Alexander James: Intersection is on display at The Studio Building, 21 Evesham Street, W11 4AJ until 24 May. Admission is free.