I had seen James Middleton whizzing around the hallways of Wimbledon College of Art many a time during my stint there, he would often be pushing a shopping trolley around the hallways, full of 'hopefully stretcher bars' or useful looking junk stuffs in and out of different rooms. Though we never rubbed shoulders at the time, I have become increasingly invested in his work. Regular social media posts have shown me that graduating from his BA last summer has not slowed him down. I wondered how he'd dealt with the transition of being a studenty painter over to a real studio based painting person. James' work is home to many themes and ideas like some kind of big tasty soup, but when you start to look at it all together and when you see the body of work, a string doth emerge. His works are inherently painterly and at times maybe even go in to that kind of 'painters paintings' place, but it's the turbulent and constant thinking that takes the biscuit. Whilst walking around the studio together (previously a door painting factory by the way) he would pull out paintings from bookshelves, cupboards or from under the sofa depending on the topic of conversation. To my absolute surprise he casually pulled out studies of road signs, memes, vexillology and even a portrait of a strangely written character from a BBC drama. All the while, the much larger and authoritative works stood quietly in the background, hanging around the 'main wall' like wise giants. It was here when I really saw his process of testing his thoughts out no matter how big or small... Giving them a chance to grow legs, if they wanted to.
Then we sit down, my phone's out and this is the transcribed recording:
How are you finding this studio, how long have you been working in here? I moved in to this studio part way through September 2019 and because I've had other studios before I set up so quick. The first time around it took me so long, like the whole year was just setting up really because you're not comfortable when you're trying to find shelves and stuff. Me and my mate built this whole thing for like £12 [points to wall rack], I like building random stuff, it's good fun.
Are you making work outside of your studio as well then, at home or anything? I do drawings and stuff and I like gouache, I do that at home but not that often. It's quite hard with commuting back home. I think everywhere though [hands me a pile of tiny sketchbooks] - This one is full of pictures that I wish I took. I used to spend a lot of time on the drawings in my sketchbook and then I felt like, what's the point? They become a little piece that only you see or someone looks through it, you have to tear it out and it looks shit. I have been doing smaller paintings on paper, funnily enough I bought this thing on eBay when I couldn't sleep, this weird long ring binder - To make it look like it was a sketchbook page. [hole punches sheet of kitchen towel]. The first painting I saw of yours was that big cow lying down on the sofa, it really stuck in my mind and I kept thinking about it for ages. I get a slightly uncomfortable feeling from it but I enjoy the intensity. What has been the reaction from other people about that piece of work? Oh! A lot of people like that painting, at the time I did it quite quick, like really early on the basic image was there and people would come in and were saying it was cool and they always remembered it. The colours are quite striking... Coincidently they're like McDonalds colours. The image just kind of came about because there was this similar sofa at these student halls, I wasn't staying there at the time but it's one of those things that sticks in your mind. I painted the sofa as if it was meat as well, it was like this guilty disgusting thing. I was thinking a lot about meat at the time, I'm not vegetarian but I just thought it was weird, just how much meat I was eating. It's a strange thing when you think about it, it's such a rich topic and I was taken away by it.
Previously we exchanged a few messages about your using of meat as a subject in your work and you told me you were influenced by cartoons during your childhood, one of them being Tom and Jerry. Why do you think these cartoon images of meats stayed with you, what is it about them? Well nostalgia is a very easy thing to take from because it's already lined up in an easily digestible format. You don't remember the whole mess of the show, you remember strong images from it that stick with you. It's just so strong and those images make for easy painting, well they start the ideas off anyway. For some reason I remember Spiderman so well, and Rugrats and things. Nostalgia is so rich. I think because so many people do that kind of work, I didn't know if I should do it as well but I wanted to make paintings. I wanted to make stuff but I didn't know what to make stuff of.
At times your work is quite comical, a big oil painting of an upside-down plastic garden chair is really out there, it’s a t