Joseph James:
Transmutation – Paper and Steel Cuttings

The Collapse, 2015
blind contour drawings, movie posters mounted on fabriano, laser cut
55 x 108 cm

Joseph James (b. 1979) is an American-born artist residing in Finland. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA, and Master of Fine Arts in printmaking from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki.

Over the years, Joseph James’s works have moved on from the traditional methods of graphic art: printing and the preparation of works as several identical copies. His works are mostly paper cuttings based on drawings. He draws on the reverse face of a coloured, often painted, stiff sheet of paper and cuts the designs with a scalpel. In fact, he cuts away the unnecessary parts, leaving only the drawing. The resulting cobweb-like paper cuttings are placed on top of each other, with the lower ones visible through the openings in the upper pieces, and the background on which the work is mounted becomes part of it. He may also use laser-cut parts or digitally drawn forms which he then cuts by hand.

These unique, one-off works may be based just as much on observation as on a mental image: a street scene or a photograph seen in a magazine or the notion of the structure of the human face, or how fast drawing feels, and how that feeling might look. The works are in fact sculpted drawings, or sculptures based on drawings. Their material is unassuming and physically light, but there is much to see in them. Their preparation is demanding and painstaking work, but viewing them is enjoyable, producing a rewarding feeling of abundant airiness.

Joseph James has recently expanded the range of his cuttings to stainless steel, a more traditional material of sculpture. These laser-cut pieces are, of course, more physical and sturdier than the works in paper, but they, too, retain the lightness and feeling of immateriality of the original starting point.

His works are found in various private collections as well as in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Helsinki Art Museum and the Hämeenlinna Art Museum, among others.

Ilona Anhava


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The Swirl, 2016
drawings, photographs mounted on fabriano, acrylic on fabriano, hand cut
78 x 62 cm

The Clot, 2016
digital drawings acrylic on fabriano hand cut
74 x 118 cm

The Blinds, 2014
blind contour drawings, stainless steel, laser cut
78 x 151 cm

exhibition view

Reaction and Release, 2016
digital drawings acrylic fabriano handcut
120 x 93 cm

Infinite Jest, 2016
drawings, magazine pages mounted on fabriano, acrylic, hand cut
122 x 100 cm

exhibition view

Green, 2016
drawings, magazine pages mounted on fabriano, acrylic spray paint, acrylic on fabriano, hand cut
136 x 105 cm

Dream Catcher, 2016
blind contour drawings, stainless steel, laser cut
77 x 67 cm

Compression, 2016
blind contour drawings movie posters mounted on fabriano laser cut
53 x 45 cm

Breath, 2016
drawings, photographs mounted on fabriano, acrylic on fabriano, hand cut
98 x 118 cm