Breed: For those who have not yet seen the exhibition, how would you define the pieces you are exhibiting?
James: I’m exploring the idea of ‘Like’ as a defining word of the internet generation in a similar way to how ‘Love’ defined a generation in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It’s a comment on its rise within social media and how a previously passive word has crept into global culture and gained a certain kind of power. ‘Like’ has become more than just a word, it’s become an action, a reward and an icon. It’s now both a hugely powerful word and in many ways a meaningless one. That duality is interesting.
Breed: Can you talk us through the process of how you created the works in the show?
James: There are a total of 100 Likes in the show. The Like paintings are acrylic paint on canvas. Each Like panel measures 150cm x 50cm and they are grouped in various numbers. The largest painting in the show, 6 Likes, measures 300cm x 150cm. The works in the gallery upstairs are all hand screen-printed in five colour variations, limited to 40 prints of each version. There are 85 grouped together in the gallery, all hung in a grid creating a huge wall of multi-coloured Likes.
Breed: Your Like paintings take a neutral and ambiguous position. They can be read as both a reflection of a vacuous culture defined by a word that has lost its meaning or as a celebration of ‘Like’ as a positive expression, With this in mind, do you have a personal position on social media?
James: I’m not really criticising or championing social media. It’s complex, I can see the potential of it but it can also be very tedious. I think social media is an amazing tool in terms of the global reach it has to connect people and spread information, but it’s also profoundly vacuous in the way that a lot of people engage with it. Aside from the banalities of everyday life that many feel compelled to broadcast, there is the obsession with accumulating all of these ‘Likes’ which essentially mean nothing. It’s a currency without any tangible value. Acquiring thousands of ‘Likes’ and gaining followers isn’t a reliable barometer of whether you’re popular, talented or interesting. The repetition of large numbers of these iconic Like paintings grouped in varying numbers perhaps highlights both the power of ‘Like’ and the emptiness of it, It looks joyful but can equally be read as cynical.
Breed: 100 Likes occupies the gallery, as well as being in and around the store. Are you pleased with how the viewer of your work can see the pieces in both a gallery and a commercial space?
James: The gallery is on the first floor, so it was good to be given the whole store and use the artworks to create a route through the space to the gallery upstairs. colette is a visionary store, so when you get a space as beautifully curated as this, fashion and art work well together and colette feels like an appropriate context for this exhibition.
Breed: You also have merchandise available – any particular favourites?
James: Yes we’ve done a few James Joyce/colette products that incorporate some of the artworks on show. I like the black-on-black collapsed face t-shirt, but we’ve also done a skateboard, scented candle, postcards, and enamel pins, all in limited editions for the duration of the show.
Breed is an artist management agency that represent James Joyce commercially, you can see a selection of James’s commercial works on the Breed website here.