Shani Rhys James
Combing Her Hair, 2019
Signed and dated verso
Oil on gesso board
29 1/2 x 23 5/8 in, 75 x 60 cm
Regarded as one of the most important artists of her generation, Shani Rhys James has developed over a long and distinguished career a unique and highly personal style of intense...
Regarded as one of the most important artists of her generation, Shani Rhys James has developed over a long and distinguished career a unique and highly personal style of intense psychological power. Taking almost exclusively the female figure - frequently herself - as her subject, Rhys James has continued to explore the role of women within domestic spaces. In this latest body of work Rhys James continues to explore the transience of being creating images that challenge the cyclical and relentless passage of life.
In these recent works Rhys James plays with the idea of a ‘making oneself up’, the figures either combing their hair or posing in vivid accessories and clothing. Using these simple items and actions, Rhys James explores how we create ourselves each day and the feminine obligation to prettify oneself. The figures capture Rhys James’s belief that in our culture women ‘become just another decorative interior thing’. These motifs of chaos, order, decline and renewal emerge from Rhys James’ great fascination with literature; turning particularly to the influence of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Happy Days’ in which the character Winnie is buried in sand, sinking slowly into oblivion, but never quite released from her dying moments.
Shani Rhys James will be the subject of a major solo exhibition in 2020 at Charleston, Lewis, the home of the Bloomsbury Group members Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. This follows on from her exhibition at Connaught Brown ‘This Inconstant State’, which was named 2018’s ‘Best in Visual Arts’ by Wales Art Review. She was the subject of the BBC’s documentary series ‘What Do Artists Do All Day’ in 2014 and has been awarded numerous prizes including the National Portrait Award, Mostyn Open, Hunting Prize, the Gold Medal at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and an MBE for services to Welsh art.