A camera was left in Shani Rhys-James studio over a period of 2 months, taking one picture every hour, giving a real insight into the way she works. As she says herself, 'I have a gestating period sometimes, then produce quickly, yet also can be slow' - there's no fixed method, as is evident in the footage. Often the camera, in taking only one image per hour, misses much of a paintings development as Rhys-James works so quickly, but equally there are long spells of contemplation where little happens but for studio equipment and canvasses being moved around.
In fact there is always movement in her studio as paintings are continually being placed next to one another, in different combinations, for reflection and comparison. While Rhys-James tends to work on one painting at a time, there is the feeling that as soon as one is started, the next is already forming in her head, and yet there is also a close relationship with recent works. This to-ing and fro-ing of ideas is evident in the way the paintings evolve, with ideas sketched in, worked on, removed, replaced, and so on. The last painting in the time-lapse film, for example, shows Rhys-James painting in a crow and a figure walking out of the right-hand side of the picture before both of these are scrubbed out and replaced with a little girl.
Rhys-James' work is very much a product of her studio, becoming very much an extension of herself and her imagination. References for each painting are drawn from her immediate surroundings: she observes her own face, feet and hands, and studies herself in the mirror for particular postures; the objects ranged about her studio make appearances in her work; and previous paintings are consulted. In this way, drawing from a variety of sources, Rhys-James' imagination plays with ideas as they develop on the canvas, sketching in new compositions and experimenting with colour all the time. She says 'I never quite know where its going in many senses its driven by emotion but I start having a dialogue with a painting and it then becomes its own personality'.
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Click on images, below, to view video clips
Timelapse Film (2mins 46 secs)
Shani Rhys-James talks about the painting process (1min 27secs)
Shani Rhys-James on observation (37secs)