Art & Photography

Jarman Awards Winner 2012: James Richards

  • Ajay Hothi speaks with this year’s winner of the prestigious film award
    London-based filmmaker James Richards was last night crowned winner of this year’s Jarman Award, presented by Film London and Channel 4 at a gala ceremony at London’s Whitechapel Gallery. An esteemed panel, including Tate Modern’s Stuart Comer, filmmaker Mark Cousins and the Whitechapel Gallery director, Iwona Blazwick, deemed Richards the winner as he “brings a strong, sculptural awareness of space to his installations and an informed, intelligent approach to video and found footage.” The Chelsea School of Art graduate’s work is focused on re-editing material to create complex and immersive audio-visual mixtapes. One of the newer artists on the long list of ten, the Cardiff-born director was awarded a £10,000 cash prize and a commission for Channel 4’s Random Acts strand of experimental programming.Ajay Hothi: Congratulations, James!  How does it feel to have won?James Richards:It’s good!  I feel very excited and surprised.  It’s a real pleasure to know that my work is being acknowledged.  Plus, at least for a bit, it means that I can just go for it, you know? It means that I can carry on without having to think about money.Ajay: You have a few different strands to your work: film, sculpture, installation, screenings. How would you define your work in general?James:Well, I don’t really make things and I don’t tell stories. For me, it’s not really about creating meaning, it’s about gathering and clipping – pointing a finger around culture and composing work around that. It’s about sampling. It’s about appropriation and about re-showing things. It’s an expressive act.
  • Ajay: How has the past year been for you?James:I’ve had a really good year. I showed at Chisenhale Gallery in London, which was my biggest show to date. It was well received and since then I’ve really had the confidence to carry on. I always ask myself whether it’s okay to keep working like I do, like I’m laying my ground before myself. Everyday in my studio I’m confronting randomness and boringness and something’s-not-working-ness, but every now and then something goes ga-dunk and clicks into place. It’s that bit of magic that you go with because it makes sense to you and you hope that it makes sense to somebody that’s looking at it, too.Ajay: Has Derek Jarman been any sort of influence to you?James: He has, really. I remember as a — maybe quite pretentious — teenager getting Blue from Cardiff City Library. It was a strange, magic tape and it was definitely my first encounter with film art.Then, when I came to London, I saw The Angelic Conversationat Tate Modern, which is a beautiful work. We’d been out the night before and the screenings were on a Sunday afternoon and we just sat there, drifting in and out of these abstractions. There was the sound design, the lines of poetry and this idea that film was something that you’re just left with for an hour and a half, rather than something that you follow.  It was gorgeous, and vague, and poetic and sexy.Ajay: One half of the prize is a commission for Channel 4 — do you watch much TV?

    James: I got into music as a teenager and stopped watching television then. I made a Random Acts programme earlier this year. It was a nice film but I’d like to make something that engages with television as a structure and as a physical place in some way.

    Photography Robin Sinha