Colourful Language: James Lemon on creativity and insecurity
WORDS BY MAX BENGTSSON IMAGES BY SAM WONG
New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist James Lemon has crafted his style within the ceramic world. His works are certainly not limited to ceramic, but it’s his most confident style — oozing expressive colour with a one-of-a-kind style. Featured in galleries like the NGV and the Heide Museum of Modern Art, James’ pieces are tactile, playful and dynamic.
Chatting with James was an absolute delight. We came away understanding a lot around the process of an artist, the confidence one builds over time to produce unique pieces of work and how his awesome Colourful Language project has helped display his pieces in studio!
Your background, upbringing and experiences play a massive role in the artist you end up becoming. James has always been creative — starting out with interests in and music — which is where he learned a lot about the creative process. Some hard lessons around rejection and the ability to separate emotion from the bigger picture were taught during the early stages of his creative journey.
The biggest creative killer is insecurity. And unfortunately, in those [creative] industries, I think it's very easy to be insecure. So it's kind of going into it already fighting an uphill battle.
But through those experiences, James found a sense of freedom. Releasing insecurities to start finding his own style and creative output. He relates it back to when you’re a kid, having fun, expressing sense and not taking things too seriously. And wow, does that sense of freedom come across in his work — and more so, his Colourful Language project. James decided he wanted to display his pieces by creating plinths that incorporated his style, and are pieces of art in their own right.
He started to describe the process as being similar to how a kid would hold a paintbrush. They just grab it from the side and go, go, go. James wanted speed and motion to play a big part in the project — not overthinking and refining — but rather having some inspiration in his head and going for it (giving us some serious Jackson Pollock kinda vibes). His latest obsession with space and nature documentaries was the start of the process and this is super evident in his colour and pattern choices with primaries, UV rays, yellows, blues and planet shapes.
I went into this with a young boy’s mindset, and I'm trying to look at the world with this mindset and paint with it as well.
James sees painting and glazing as a similar experience and process, so in his spare time, he enjoys exploring with canvas, but the pieces aren’t for the public just yet. 'I’m more inclined to keep those works private, at least for a little while, my sculptural work and my ceramics I feel more confident with, whereas my paintings I feel like I want to take more time on.' Based on his journey to unbelievable ceramic creations, we’re excited to see James play more in this space and the level of confidence that will come with those types of works. Because everything he’s doing, whether it be video, ceramic or steel pieces, are an extension of him and his expression at that particular time — there’s endless possibilities for how it can extend.
One of his main goals at the beginning of his artistic adventure was to have a place where he could be creative without a bunch of limitations. The place where he could make large scale work that could 'potentially freak out a lot of people in the ceramic world'. A place where he could get to know his own style — and own it. And that’s a position he’s found himself in. Where he has the freedom to create what he wants to create.
That place is his studio, where you can find him and his quirky, hilarious, colourful and abstract pieces of work in the form of housewares, sculptures, plinths and everything in between. Visit James at 41 Arthurton Road, Northcote (once lockdown lifts, of course) and follow him on Instagram.
We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know James, his artwork, his story on creative freedom and his wonderful idea behind the Tinted plinths. Stay tuned for our next featured artist coming soon.
Stay up to date with Tint’s latest news, colours and styling tips