James Ashley Grimditch graduated in Fine Art from Kingston University in 2009. Primarily an abstract painter, his self-taught style spirals from an early interest in automatic art.
"I remember during my time at school there was a memorable moment that changed the way I perceived art. One particular book was being passed around class, the name on the front said ‘Howard Hodgkin’. Before seeing his work I had a fairly stiff impression of what a drawing or a painting should look like. To have the complete focus on colour rather than a familiar object or person or something real, abstraction essentially, it really blew me away.
Since accepting that my own practice suited an abstract style I haven’t looked back. I love the idea that the canvas is a place to run wild. It’s a blank space to become lost and make mistakes. The process of layering the paint, working with textures, creating depth is all a challenge. For me it also becomes a hypnotic practice, a routine that can’t just be ignored. Most of all it's relaxing. I like to say that painting is where I go to take my mind off things, to escape the bigger world and to retreat into my own fantasy. It is my safe place, something I can rely on despite whatever else is going on in my life.
As an abstract painter I feel sometimes there is an unspoken necessity to explain the end result. I tend to shy away from the obvious questions, ‘What’s it all about? What was your source of inspiration?’ I’m happy for people to make up their own mind about what the painting says to them. I guess you could describe it as a language that I have simply created. I once had a little notebook full of nonsensical shapes and squiggles. To anyone else flicking the pages it looked like doodles but to me it was like looking at code. I become immersed in these strange patterns that I had created for myself.
My method or technique is without doubt irrational. It never requires a great deal of planning. I like to launch into a painting with the mindset of ‘act now, ask questions later’. I can definitely relate to the same energy and excitement children get with colouring books. My vision of any end result doesn’t really exist. It is created on the canvas so to speak. While I used to be more spontaneous my work has definitely slowed down. Literally the pace at which I paint now is much more controlled, especially in later stages of the painting. The appearance of how shapes are presented, I have become much tidier. I seem to have lost a lot of the raw ruggedness more associated with complete free expression, more apparent in my previous work.
In recent years I have also experimented with real images within my work whilst still maintaining a signature style. I very much enjoyed the challenges these presented and felt they gave me a real breath of fresh air into my portfolio. The biggest obstacle for me is deciding on palette. I am very prone to breaking all the rules and filling my paintings with vivid explosions of colour that distract the attention from the original designs. My most rewarding pieces have quite limited tones and I am now in a developmental phase where my work tries to combine spontaneity with a set of pre-planned parameters. In doing this I hope to add ever more complex layers to my work that continue to provide a cleaner and sharper finished image."