17 March - 17 April 2016


Canadian born James Allan arrived in Oxford from Toronto in 2002. He studied Fine Art at Ontario College of Art 1982-85, and has supported his practice for over thirty years in various forms: as film lighting technician, industrial electrician, digital technician and for the past 14 years, Head of Imaging Services at the Bodleian Library. His working environment and experience are infused into his compositions.

Confronted by the cost of home ownership when he arrived in the UK with a young family, he was intrigued to learn that he could have an allotment 25 by 10 metres for just £12 a year. He has worked an allotment at Cripley Meadows, Jericho faithfully since those early days.

When Allan talks about the concepts that inform his abstractions, he speaks specifically about space in different forms: geographic space and displacement as an immigrant to the UK himself, and parents who emigrated independently of each other to Canada from Scotland; space in memory and time; private versus public space; musical space and cadence.

Allan’s paintings are distinctive in their playfulness with patterning, space and colour. A myriad of artistic references from American artists of the early eighties such as Peter Halley, Dan Flavin, Brice Marden and others spring to mind. After years of working with monochrome, Allan has discovered colour and there is a sense of fresh and unexpected delight in his palette.

The patterning and spatial elements in Allan’s work are satisfying and entice us to explore and unravel his compositions. Allan paints from his studio at home to a backcloth of sublime modulations of Bach. Large windows pan out over a quilt of gardens that are defined by walls, fences, garden sheds and the shadows that they cast. Echoes of these shapes. patterns and juxtapositions are as evident in his compositions as are electrical and digital elements, musical references and the patterning that characterises allotments. Essentially Allan’s paintings are liberated.