Image Still: Jim, 2015.
“I remind myself that traveling through life as an artist requires one to distill things slowly. To be inquisitive, inventive, and patient—a lot of things get discarded along the way. It’s a little like boiling sea water to get at the salt,” artist James Nares observed. It is with this attention to the long view that allows Nares to discern the eternal as it unfolds, using film to capture time and realizing it just so, deepening our understanding of the essence of being in the work of art itself.
In his newest work, Portraits, now on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, through April 23, 2016, Nares takes on the role as portrait artist, creating moving images in his Manhattan studio. Using high-speed cameras to capture when he calls “micro-moments,” Nares has selected eleven sitters including Amy Taubin, Walter Robinson, Glenn O’Brien, Jim Jarmusch, and his daughters, set against a simple backdrop. Filmed at several hundred frames per second, each video ranges between 11 and 35 minutes in length, displayed at close to life-size on 40-inch high-definition monitors set within a frame. The effect is one of singular intensity that owes more to painting than to still photography.
Nares observes, “A still photograph is a life. People are not merely a single moment in time.” By marrying the temporal nature of film with the transcendent presence of painting, Nares has produced a series of portraits that deepen our perceptions of the sitters’ being. The ability to gaze upon someone for an extended period of time without having to look away allows for people to perceive nuances and observe patterns communicated in the inevitable monologue that occurs in a conscious and unconscious mixture of non-verbal body language.
By conceiving the portrait of his subject as a being that incorporates time into its experience, Nares examines and refashions the boundaries of representation itself. He reveals, “I try to embody the nature and combine the forms—it’s like one and one making three—to expose a metaphor of some kind. It’s searching for metaphors, for likeness, like a breeding ground. It seems to me, that’s how a language develops. Everything breeds through metaphors.”
With Portraits, Nares offers a new lexicon for visual ideas and thoughts, using time as a means to transcend the boundaries of one of the oldest genres of art. And in doing so, Nares reconnects us with the reason for it all, the very desire to experience the world through visuals. “Seeing is believing” as the old saying goes, but more than that, seeing is feeling, perceiving, and beholding. It is not so much to take at face value as it is to observe the ways in which the visual informs knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. With Portraits, Nares gives us a look at the people in his world, the people who stand before him ready for their close up.
All Images: Courtesy of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.