There is something super seductive about Jim Starr’s work that defies capricious trends and ‘now’ art vogues. Like the ‘fixes’ I get from Rothko’s pulsing colour fields or the mesmeric haunt of Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ diner, this ‘Starr’ shines within that same galaxy. His visual grammar in earlier work with Americana pop culture branding in ‘Desert Trip’ or ‘Doris Day & Mercedes’ is as slick as an ad montage from Mad Men. His later exhibits visit the dark matter in his ‘Sci-fi Expressionist’ space where masked Medusas prowl with their undecided sensuality.
The genius of Jim Starr lies in his ability to beguile the viewer – his visual voice never shouts, it whispers, drawing you closer like a confidante. From his embryonic foundation at the Chelsea London Institute, securing a degree at Kingston followed, legitimising his initial forays with spray stencilling way beyond proliferate urban street artists. For over 15 years his screen – prints and longer established paintings have been exhibited in over 90 shows to date and have gone under the hammer alongside some of the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists. Jim Starr’s diary reads as a true working artist’s: Auctioneers Dreweatt’s Urban Art Sales (at Paintworks, Bristol, and Selfridges, London), solo exhibitions at London’s Dalston Superstore and The Pall Mall Deposit, London, The Coningsby Gallery, London and Bristol’s 2 Degrees Gallery, the Wilder Street Gallery, King of Paint and Weapon of Choice. A while back I witnessed a flurry of hands at a charity auction where aspirant art aficionados were bidding for one of Jim Starr’s donations!
The commercial culture coalition with pin-up imagery defines Jim Starr as a master at the top of his game. Ectoplasmic tone bursts create a sub-field veiled by bleeding trickles of contrasting colours. His ‘fast and loose’ technique gives freedom-of-form to the pop-art meets abstract expressionism evinced in ‘Tease’ and ‘Striped Curve’.
Using a mixture of original screen printed material, his own photography, free-hand drawings and collected collage, Jim creates original and often complex hand-pulled prints, each one uniquely different. ‘Average’ is not a word found in this artist’s lexicon, every print has a criteria of quality. They can vary from five layers to forty and can take weeks or many months to execute. Having printed on denim, silk, surfboards and many other surfaces, Jim’s bigger images are printed onto canvas, reworked and refined using acrylics and spray paint.
His current creations reveal his borderline obsession with timeless and universal icons. These eye-candy images are Jim’s ‘worm-hole’ conduit into that complex space where less becomes more after initial viewing.
Recently Jim has devoted more time to painting. From 2000 to 2008 his pieces were heavily inspired by ‘Pop’ using flat patches of bright colour contrasting with areas of sharp printed imagery. From 2008 onwards Jim started to work on more epic scale supports with household paints and spray cans. These developments coincided with Jim moving away from illustration and commercial printing onto more self-initiated themes…
The palette became softer and more subtle and the screen-printed elements of his work became more experimental and less reliant on ‘found’ imagery. Working directly with close friends as models he embarked on a series of portraits which were exhibited in 2012. Those images have proved to be a rich source of material and have been repeatedly reworked and refined into many new, finished pieces. These later works are an alluring suspension existing between the figurative and the abstract. They have an unconstrained luxurious application of paint relying on drips and splatters and ‘happy accidents’. The final image is a composite of abstract painting and photographic contortion. Each paint layer or print mark, undergoes a process of destruction, addition and editing until a final outcome is achieved – organic serendipity.
Jim’s love of travel and his insatiable appetite for incongruity and ‘managed dissonance’ flows through his images. East meets West, white trash nestles with glitterati, good versus evil and everything in-between.
In addition to Jim’s gallery and show exhibits, he has painted and drawn on location worldwide and was an Expedition Artist for BSES Expeditions on four occasions. In 2014 he exhibited in London, Paris and New York.
Tim Francis 2015