James L. Marshall: Soft-Machine Buzz

Now splitting his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, former Feltspace co-director James L. Marshall will exhibit in Adelaide for the first time since 2012 with the upcoming exhibition Soft-Machine Buzz at Hugo Michell Gallery.

Marshall, who received a Samstag Scholarship in 2014, is a multi-media artist who says his Soft-Machine Buzz works are “abstract paintings created digitally and then commercially printed, rather than being painted in a traditional sense”. The artist, who used to DJ in Adelaide under the name Brainsss!, won’t be in Adelaide during the exhibition, as he is about to exhibit at La Croix Gallery in Los Angeles, but he will return to Australia in September for another project. Marshall, who also works for industrial designer Christopher Boots in Melbourne, is looking to make LA home. “If all goes to plan, Los Angeles will be my (semi)permanent home moving forward,” Marshall says. “I‘ve been back and forth for the past seven years but this seems like the most concrete move. james-l-marshall-adelaide-review “LA is a real melting pot for contemporary art right now,” says Marshall, who was Raid Project’s assistant director in LA for a while. “The city gives you space to work. It has world class schools and museums, and an energetic creative community. While it can, at times, feel alienating, LA provides the cover to disappear and really focus. I also love that there’s this utopian attitude within a completely fucked up dystopian city – that really resonates with me.” Marshall used his Samstag Scholarship to study at the ArtCenter College of Design in Los Angeles last year. “I applied and was offered a place in their 2015 MFA [Master of Fine Arts] program,” he says. “ArtCenter has a strong emphasis on critical theory, which I was interested in revisiting after a few years of focusing on exhibiting. The program also offered one-on-one studio visits with visiting artists and critics like Bruce Hainley, Stan Douglas, Walead Beshty and Diana Thater. Having that opportunity to work with such talented faculty and peers has really helped my work, and has re-enforced my beliefs about the important social and political role of the artist within contemporary culture.”

james-l-marshall-adelaide-reviewJames L. Marshall, Yet to be titled (detail.), Inkjet on canvas, 34 inch x 24 inch, 2016 

To be exhibited at Hugo Michell from Thursday, July 28, Soft-Machine Buzz is the latest iteration of a project that Marshall has been working on for the last three years. “Previous works have been bright but for this series I wanted to streamline my creative process and visually reduce them by removing colour,” he says. “Black is notoriously difficult to photograph, so by removing colour I’m preferencing the physical experience of the piece rather than the photographic documentation – which we are so accustomed to these days. I like to think that the series captures some kind of uncanny speculative energy not dissimilar to paranormal photography – visually seductive but potentially harbouring something more sinister through its mimicry.

james-l-marshall-adelaide-reviewJames L. Marshall, Yet to be titled (detail.), Inkjet on canvas, 34 inch x 24 inch, 2016 

“The works in Soft-Machine Buzz explore disparity between the speed of contemporary life and the romantic ambition that Modernist abstraction can illustrate pure human experience,” Marshall says. “Hyper-connectivity has been so naturalised that our sense of temporality is severely disoriented and accelerated to the brink of collapse. I’ve been interested in the notion that art can offer a substitute to this velocity, and produce an experience that transcends the banality of the everyday. With Soft-Machine Buzz, I attempt to achieve this through the use of contemporary prosumer technologies… essentially using tools that enable such speed to create an experience that is only possible through time with the work. Creating these paintings by printing digital files complicates their status, and allows them to act as simulations or surrogates.” James L. Marshall Soft-Machine Buzz Hugo Michell Gallery Thursday, July 28 to Friday, September 2 jameslmarshall.com Photo: John Tsiavis  

Adelaide In-depth

Get the latest stories, insights and exclusive giveaways delivered straight to your inbox every week.