Born in 1945 and raised in London Jean James experienced a London riddled with bombsites, half buildings and rubble.
“My family talked amongst themselves about the war and certainly did not discuss it with us children except to totally forbid us to play on, or anywhere near, the bombsites, but of course we did – we knew it was dangerous. The war was everywhere, on the faces and bodies of those who had survived it, in the landscape, in every conversation, but as children we could only imagine what had happened to cause these scars.”
James’ imagery relates to that time and the mysterious upheaval that had obviously occurred. Working in pen and ink, pencil and acrylic paint with 19th Century vellum deeds and Indentures. She uses symbolism to create a visual language to map historical battles, such as Waterloo or Trafalgar while others function as diagrams or maps.
The shattered fragments of parchment deeds act as either property or culture, blown up and bombed. The insects are hierarchical: the wasps are the Nazis, the ants are all purpose soldiers, the beetles are the impotent observers and victims, and the occasional spider or fly is the innocent bystander. The sheet of paper is the arena of war and the circles are the centres of action, whether that is the fighting or explosions. The areas of white space on the paper are the wastelands and the titles relate to comments made by various people who endured the bombing of London throughout WW2.