Claerwen James, born in 1970, originally trained as a molecular biologist at Oxford University, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Cold Spring Harbor, NY. She graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2003 and has won various awards, most notable the Slade School’s own Melvill Nettleship Prize for Figure Compostion, previously awarded both to Gwen Ravarat and to Gwen John.
She was nominated for Flowers Gallery’s Artist of the Day programme by Andrew Stahl, head of painting at the Slade, in 2004, and has been represented by Flowers since 2006. She has gone on to have numerous solo exhibitions with them, both in the UK and in the US.
James specialises in portraiture, mostly of young women. All of the portraits originate as photographs: some scavenged, some taken by the artist, who believes that the awkwardness of the photographic moment is crucial to the painful, elegiac quality of the paintings.
In 2006, Francis Spufford wrote that Claerwen James’ subject matter is, in a sense, the photographic moment, when a point in time is snatched from the flow “sealed into stillness and set in strange relationship to the continued life… which we do not see in photographs but which they always imply, giving the medium its mortal edge.”