Interview James Rogers’ Art of the Machine
Always with an eye out for the best new talents, her latest project as Curator at the Auction Collective is the inaugural ‘The Top 100’ sale (18-23), bringing together the very best of contemporary artists creating work for under £5,000. One of her selections for the sale was artist James Rogers, who explores our relationship with a growing technological and digital landscape – and has captivated Wilson since her first encounter with it.
‘I went to James Rogers’s studio recently – a visit that should have been an hour lasted about 3 hours and we still could have chatted for longer,’ recalls Wilson. ‘James’s work is complex, rich and process driven. He works with, and against, the 3D printers he has constructed from scratch to explore human complexities, idiosyncrasies and anxieties.’
Wilson adds: ‘I love the moment in his work where the machine produces something unexpected and that breakdown reflects what it is to be human. The machine, which is supposed to produce perfection and has traditionally been seen as a masculine force, in his work produces imperfection and beautifully flawed figures.’
At a time when the boundary between physical and digital experience has become ever more blurred (as evidenced in the art world by the rise of NFTs and AI creation), Rogers’ work feels timely. He explores figuration in the realm of the post-digital, incorporating 3D printers and machines often built by Rogers himself. The result is a body of work that aims to draw parallels with human experience – one that allows what he describes ‘a universal language to leak out’.
‘I’m looking at how I can visually define how it feels to exist as an individual amongst the emerging digital-physical landscape,’ reflects Rogers, who was awarded the 2020 Fenton Arts Trust Development Grant (under the patronage of Dame Maggie Smith, he keenly adds). ‘This relationship, whether connected or disconnected informs much of my practice, particularly as the world stage opens up and places us amongst a physical-digital landscape, images, and identities scrolling amongst each other.’
Born in Wolverhampton in 1993 and trained at the Camberwell College of Arts, Rogers’ practice was in part inspired by his father’s work as an electrician – but he is influenced by the world around him. ‘I find the relationships between people fascinating, sometimes between objects, sometimes between images. I then find it even more interesting when a certain disconnect happens, perhaps a strange sentence slips out – a logical error, or an eccentric behaviour – which usually happens when one individual finds himself with his wires crossed.’
It is often in this unexpected ‘disconnect’ that Rogers’ work takes on a profound quality. He recently programmed a machine etching of a man at work onto a copper plate. ‘After a series of hand colouring and electrical disconnects, I found that he was in fact a vulnerable boy in a dress – making a nod towards traits of hyper and toxic masculinity’, themes that are crucial within his art.
With Rogers’ work continuing to resonate – and his recent completion of a new 3D printer, this one able to ‘extrude entire blocks of clays into coils’ – the future is exciting. On top of shows due announcement in late 2021, he recently independently published a small publication of etchings. Entitled ‘We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it: Drawing in Cobalt and Sanguine’, the book gives further insight into his practice – one that looks set to continue shining a light on our man and machine world.
Rogers’ work can be viewed as part of the Auction Collective’s ‘The Top 100’ on the website – theauctioncollective.com – and on Instagram – @theauctioncollective.
About the champion
Francesca Wilson is a Curator at The Auction Collective. With past roles at the Saatchi Gallery; New Art Centre, Roche Court; and as Chair of Positive View Foundation, she focuses on presenting high quality work in an accessible space. In October 2021 Francesca will launch Felt, a platform she has co-founded re-imagining traditional skills art and craftware for a contemporary audience.