James Capper

Rotary Paintings and the Hydra Painter

29 March 2021 – 23 September 2022

“The ROTARY PAINTINGS embrace the industrial colours commonly used in my sculptures, fusing and blurring the lines of block colour. With the radio announcements playing in the background in my studio, the UK daily government briefings soon became the inspiration for their titles, recording this blur in history of the monotony of days spent in lockdown! The works have a timelessness that echoes the history of modern art, bearing similarities to the painting Target (1961) by Jasper Johns and the bold colours of the hand-painted steel sculpture of David Smith.” – James Capper

Albion Barn is pleased to present an exhibition of recent works by James Capper.  The ROTARY PAINTINGS form a significant body of work created using the HYDRA PAINTER – a hydraulic painting machine. The first iteration of HYDRA PAINTER, built in 2015, is a basic machine consisting of a small square table with a hole in the middle to allow the spindle of a hydraulic motor through it, attached to which is a beam affixed with paint rollers. Despite initial successful tests, HYDRA PAINTER was packed away and sat in storage until Capper rediscovered the machine in March 2020.

Capper creates these ROTARY PAINTINGS in a synthesis with his machine the HYDRAPAINTER. The combination of unique art object with mechanical production methods encapsulates Capper’s investigation into biomimicry, the artist’s hand is extended to the rotating arm of the hydraulic machine.

Capper works primarily in large-scale industrial sculpture, structuring his practice around ‘Divisions’. The divisions the ‘Earth Marking’ and ‘Carving’, while the art object is the machine, demonstrate an obvious preoccupation with the trace left behind by his sculpture. In a divergence of form, the ROTARY PAINTINGS centre the trace left by Capper’s hydraulic sculpture. The same industrial maritime paint is used across the two- and three-dimensional aspects of his practice, drawing further relations between them, and giving the series a distinct, lacquered effect.

The marine paint interacts with the movement of the roller arm in different ways depending upon its consistency; a heavy density forming a thick, gloss finish, while thinning it with solvents makes lively, wash-like marks. The HYDRAPAINTER can then adapt its speed to accentuate these differences, the variation of marks implying the temporality and motion that is pivotal to its production. The bold, circular paintings engage with seminal works such as Jasper John’s Target, 1961, the colour field paintings of Kenneth Noland, Ugo Rondinone’s target paintings, and Damien Hirst’s spin paintings.

Produced throughout the pandemic, each ROTARY PAINTING acts as a historical record of the day that it was produced. The titles alternate between caustic humour and poignancy in response to newspaper headlines, PM briefings, and press announcements. Capper forged a link between the repetitive method of production and the monotony of life during lockdown: the subtle blending and shifting hues giving form to the sense of temporal limbo. The initial series of ROTARY PAINTINGS were produced in collaboration with Covid Smart, with much of the proceeds being donated to the charity.

Accompanying the exhibition of James’s latest ROTARY PAINTINGS, Albion Barn is excited to announce the publication James Capper PATHWAYS IN MOBILE SCULPTURE, published by Albion Publishing with texts by Richard Cork, James Capper, Edward Campbell, Alexa Jeanne Kusber, and Guy Robertson. The book will be available for orders from June.