How would you describe your work?
James Balmforth: I try not to, I find accurate definitions have a short lifespan and new work always seems to invalidate past attempts. I feel like I jump from one thing to the next, but as time goes on I see themes emerging which is something that I find very interesting; the fact that strong, non-intentional relationships between different works and different periods emerge that you can’t claim were on purpose. For me, that’s the larger subject matter — that which you don’t necessarily have access to but, by recurring, outlines itself over time.
Who or what inspired your approach?
Most of all, the work I have made informs my subsequent work. I like to be as hands-on as possible with everything I produce, because I find that learning about the behaviour of a material leads to new ways of negotiating with it and understanding its relation to other materials. Like people, material things are processes, and like words and concepts they are constituted largely by their relations. It is our confrontation with the material world and our dependence on external relations that is one of the things that informs my own approach.
James Balmforth (B. 1980), Phase Boundary #4, 2014. Gallium and fat in museum glass in artist's frame. 17 1/8 x 21 in. (43.5 x 53.5cm.) Estimate: £3,500-4,500
Whose work would you most like to be exhibited alongside?
My hope is to be involved in strong, coherent exhibitions rather than be placed alongside any work in particular. I am no curator though. Artwork is piling up; the future is jam packed full of it and to articulate this growing vocabulary and even to create new sense is the task of the curator. New forms of literacy will always be needed to decode the world and I think this is one of art’s functions.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting development in contemporary art?
This relates back to the last question in a way. I’ve noticed an increase in exhibitions that place old works alongside contemporary work, and to see how these exhibitions can be structured to reframe contemporary work and allow older work to be rethought is interesting. The way I see it, an artwork’s place in the world cannot be fully appreciated by the artist who made it. Others may see the work from the artists’ blind spot, or from the broader context that time passing provides. So it’s the increasing use of these vantage points to pick out works across time and use them as building blocks to articulate something new that I think is progressive.
Can you tell us something interesting/unusual about yourself?
Bianca Chu, Head of Sale for First Open / London: James Balmforth’s practice deals with issues such as flux, transformation, progress and innovation. Phase Boundary # 4 explores material states and the fragile boundaries between them. The work consists of fat and gallium — the only solid metal that melts in contact with human body.