Congratulations to James Nizam on being named to the 2011 Sobey Art Award Long List as a potential representative for BC/Yukon.
The Sobey Award is widely recognized as the preeminent award for Canadian artists under 40. To be named as one of five artists who could potentially represent the West Coast and Yukon is a much-deserved honour.
Nizam has been exhibiting with Gallery Jones since the gallery’s inception. Over the course of his busy career, James’ work has maintained an elegant adherence to technical principals of photography, while the aesthetics have been varied. To create the Dwellings Series, which Gallery Jones exhibited in 2006, James used long exposures and manipulated light within abandoned homes. The subsequent series, Anteroom (2007), involved turning rooms into camera obscuras and capturing the resulting projection inside the room. Most recently, Memorandoms was executed inside one apartment of a social housing development slated for demolition. The objects that contributed to the functionality of living spaces (light bulbs, closet doors, shelves) were employed to build totems or memorials, which James photographed with a 4×5 camera and presented as large format prints. The consistency of his inquisition into how we perceive the spaces we occupy and how they show evidence of our lives is a subtext to the varied aesthetic merit of the work itself.
I sometimes think of James as a researcher, someone who has invented the field of structural anthropology or architectural ethnography. On the West Coast, in a city ever-looking forward, he is doing the rare thing of pausing to examine the back edge of progress. This is far from documentation of a time and place, which inevitably holds tinges of nostalgia. It is documentation of events, perpetrated by the artist in a space and with material that is of import to the structure of our lives. Why this is relevant and important is that visual art, James’ research tool, is having its scope, capacity and potential expanded.