To mark the opening of his exhibition ‘Tŷ Hyll’ at The Studio in Augusta Street, Llandudno and his installation of projected animations in Haus of Helfa, James Rielly will be in conversation with Emrys Williams.
James Rielly was born in Holyhead, North Wales, in 1956, he has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally, including the now notorious Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. His work is held in major public collections including the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council Collection, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and FNAC, France.
His works draw the viewer into ambiguous fictions or misplaced narratives based largely on stories and images culled from newspaper articles. Their apparent simplicity is undermined by a sense of unease, a subversion of familial roles, a hint of the dysfunctional through their depictions of children behaving like adults and/or adults behaving like children.
Casual Influences focuses on children, gently undermining picture-book clichés of perfection. The small boy in a painting may look like the ideal child in a children’s book, school portrait, or Child’s painting but his pose as he smokes a pretend cigarette is perfectly modelled from the adult world we all, as children, long to be a part of. Other paintings in this series depict a boy with fangs, a girl in a dog costume sticking out her tongue, whilst others depict pairs of children – perhaps twins or doubles a recurring theme in Rielly’s work.
His use of humour is also part of a pictorial and cultural tradition in which satire and the grotesque may act as a pressure-valve for social tensions. “I am not a political artist, “ says Rielly, “but I mock certain things, power, relations in families, the constraints to which we’re subject, the role we’re forced to play, the narcissism of any individual who wants to be exceptional.”
The viewer is caught in a subtly disturbing gap – between what we see and what we think we see, what we know in our own lives, our own families and what we don’t know in the lives of others. It is precisely this ambiguity that has often led to media controversy surrounding Rielly’s work.