James Balmforth (b. 1980) studied at Chelsea College of Art and mainly works in sculpture, and his practice deals with issues such as flux, transformation, progress and innovation. ‘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,’ he told us earlier this year when his work was offered in our First Open sale. ‘Like people, material things are processes, and like words and concepts they are constituted largely by their relations.’ He lives and works in South London and his work has been shown internationally.
What can you tell us about your work that will appear in the Christie’s Curates exhibition?
James Balmforth: Intersection Point depicts such a structural element as having been cut away or freed from a larger framework. In engineering terminology an intersection point is an element in a structure that takes the strain of those parts it supports and joins; converging forces, conducting weight and absorbing stresses. An Intersection Point is essential in that it is crucial to stability. I think this has a lot in common with the video shown, The Consumptive Sublime, which depicts a procession of flowers whose stems falter under an intense ray of sunlight, amplified beyond the capacity that their structure can withstand.
What excites you about this exhibition?
For me it is the temporal scope of it, the fact that it brings together a family of ‘things’ disjointed from time. I’ve always liked to see how time is exposed through things, not only through the ageing of specific materials but also the evolution of techniques of making, as well as background histories that reveal the reasons things were made and the reasons they have been preserved and kept.
But I also enjoy a more inhuman perspective, that regardless of individual origins or meanings, these artefacts and artworks are like a kind of decomposed time, a residue, all part of a temporal trail of things.
Eric Gill, A.R.A. (1882-1940), St Joan of Arc, 1932. Caen. Estimate: £300,000-500,000. This piece will be offered in our Modern British and Irish Art Evening Sale on 25 June at Christie’s in London
Milo Dickinson, co-curator and Christie’s specialist: The work of James Balmforth and Eric Gill shows a clear contrast between the figurative and the abstract — and yet both are depictions of decay that are imbued with tension, the result of an anticipation of eventual destruction. Joan of Arc stands defiant, but she is in preparation for a dreadful fate: is about to be burnt alive at the stake, and this is foretold in the nervous torsion of her stiff muscles. In Balmforth's Intersection Point the steel cross is frayed, but is still standing, its breaking point under exploration. Both artists can only offer us a vision of one point in time, and yet the nature of both works transcends this, leaving the viewer to imagine for themselves the next point in the story.
Alberto Burri, Combustione, 1968. Plastic, acrylic, vinavil and combustion on cardboard. Estimate: £30,000-50,000. This piece will be offered in our Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale on 1 July at Christie’s in London
Alina Brezhneva, co-curator and Christie’s specialist: It is very exciting to look at James Balmforth’s sculpture alongside Alberto Burri’s work — they are probably not the artists one would necessarily expect to see next to each other, but once you look at both of them together many similarities come across. Both artists incorporate unusual materials inot their work, such as metal beams for Balmforth and burlap sacks, plastic cements and resin for Burri. This allows them to move away from the conventional understanding of beauty as they explore the use of non-artistic material. It is exciting to witness ideas travelling through time — half a century before Balmforth deconstructed a solid metal beam and burned the edges of it to create his sculpture titled Intersection Point, Burri had already begun incorporating the technique of burning materials which he referred to as ‘combustion’. Both artists therefore use deconstruction as a method of creating — a powerful concept which reveals the potential of decay and degradation.
Supermarine Spitfire MK. 1A — P9374 / G-MKIA. Estimate £1,500,000-2,500,000. This lot will be offered in The Exceptional Sale on 9 July at Christie’s in London
Alina Brezhneva, co-curator and Christie’s specialist: James Balmforth's Intersection Point and the Supermarine Spitfire may seem unrelated, however they demonstrate the same idea. Intersection Point borrows its title from engineering where this term refers to something supporting other structures, a vital element without which a structure would lose its stability. By singling out the intersection point Balmforth emphasises its importance. Similarly, the Spitfire was a crucial element of the British military force during the Second World War, as well as being an expression of engineering advancement and technical progress at the time. Without the vital contribution of the Spitfire during the Battle of Britain, the Allies would have been fatally undermined.
Main image at top: James Balmforth, Intersection Point, 2015. Painted steel 97 x 97cm. Courtesy of the artist and Hannah Berry Gallery, London
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