Interview with James Knights

James Knights is a 22-year-old, queer, and  working-class artist from the East of England. He grew up in a small village outside of Norwich, and is currently in his final year of a BA in Painting at Camberwell College of Arts. 

Can you tell us about your practice? 


My practice has mostly always been concerned with the idea of performativity. I wrote my dissertation on performed masculinity within queer visual cultures. My work was exploring ways in how gay men perform masculinity. For my paintings I often try to attempt to render digital effects into the physical. I’m interested how digital technology has had an effect on contemporary painting. It’s interesting to me how we can reinvent new ways of working from borrowing from the old. It’s this kind of reiteration of visual imagery that makes up my practice.


During the current government lockdown, I haven’t had much access to space or materials for the paintings that I was doing at uni. A silver lining of the lockdown for me is that I’ve been able to spend time getting back in touch with other mediums. I’ve been working with video, sculpture and performance work. Something that I’ve been interested in recently is how we present ourselves on social media and how what we consume on social media is often performed. We often curate performed identities for our viewers and audience. My work has always used familiar iconographies and how we identify these through cultural signifiers. I’ve been thinking of masks and how clowns are an exaggerated form of performance. The clown was present in my work during my foundation year and I’ve recently been thinking about how the clown is extreme emotion: extreme happiness or extreme sadness. I’ve been thinking about ways in which to cause discomfort or confusion and an overwhelmed sense of emotion for the viewers of my work. 

Can I play football with you now?, 2020, spray paint and acrylic paint on canvas, 150cm x 180cm


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