Isobel Philip discovers the intensity of James Jirat Patradoon’s canvases…
I hadn’t anticipated the tactility of James Jirat Patradoon’s new work at Boutwell Draper Gallery. The large black and white graphite drawings in his show Heartaches are so much more complex in the flesh than any photographic reproduction suggests. This complexity is textural, and not simply the result of his elaborate and intricately stylized comic-book aesthetic.
Graphite, watercolour on canvas 120×90 cm
These drawings have a waxy surface, as if a thin transparent membrane has been stretched over the image. This waxy texture does something interesting to the works’ depth. These drawings are not about the abyss. They do not drown their viewer in a black hole of penciled excess and over-saturated imagery. Instead, it is as if all elements of the images – all those solidly eloquent lines – are played off against each other at the surface.
Mapped out across the surface of the canvas, these lines – simultaneously dense and intricate – are the most remarkable element of Patradoon’s work. These are paradoxical lines. While en masse they seem so self-assured and assertive –almost like muscle sinew – when you look at the works closely it is possible to discern other, slightly tentative lines. The combination is really quite hypnotizing.
These lines pulsate across every inch of Patradoon’s canvases, even in (or perhaps most especially in) the blocks of solid black. This black is not thick or opaque, but washed out and almost transparent. You can see every pencil line. It isn’t a cavernous or bottomless black – fitting, considering Patradoon’s compositional tendency. Depth isn’t the point. These images rush to meet you. They surge forward with an almost electrical intensity.
Graphite, watercolour on canvas 90×120 cm
This intensity is also channeled through the narratives these drawings spin. These works speak of a fast paced world monopolized by a virile and masculine force. Yet, they aren’t overly aggressive. There is a certain delicacy – a certain subtle fragility – at play. This fragility is exposed in those tentative lines that are only visible at close range. These are narratives of anguish rather than hard-line violence.
The figures that populate these images have no eyes, just empty sockets. We aren’t privy to their internal thoughts, only their external gestures – their surfaces.
Perhaps the term gesture is appropriate for thinking through each drawing as a whole, not simply in relation to the figures within them. For each drawing seems to speak through gesture.
Patradoon’s own gesture announces itself through a kind of energized urgency. Standing in front of his works you can sense this urgency acutely. These drawings buzz. I felt this buzz – this vitality – from the moment I stepped into the gallery. I continued to feel it long after I had left the gallery, as the images clung tenaciously to my thoughts.