THE CHAPEL OF OUTSIDER ARTIST JIM SANDERS
Recreating the new iconographies of life: religion, birth and death
by KOD Staff
Jim is one of those rare art world enigmas; who the closer you come to, the more you wonder if they are real. Belonging to an industry where status is defined by monetary value, personal branding and connections, its difficult to believe that an artist with such clarity can even exist, in such an ego driven industry.
Turning down a secluded street, I find a heavily inscribed door that serves as a spiritual and literal gateway into artist Jim Sanders’s own Shangri-La. His figurative painting sprawls across every inch of wall space available in his Brighton home.
The artist’s studio is a palimpsest, in a constant state of flux. Each week work is ripped down, pinned up, altered. Scribbled notes and doodles stained with coffee and ink splatters, provide a seamless fusion of art and life, which appear to exist as one for Sanders. Such a manic amount of artwork should render the space chaotic, but there is a surprising air of calm. A painting hung over the window is illuminated, and casts a celestial light across the floor. I feel strangely at peace in the Chapel of Jim Sanders.
He perpetuates the rare myth of the artist; he only sells his work as a means to make more. Sander’s work is tellingly signed ‘sans’, testament of his indifference to the superficiality of the contemporary art world. I notice a quote etched into the kitchen wall “Art doesn't go to sleep in the bed made for it. It would sooner run away than say its own name… Its best moments are when it forgets what its own name is.”
The search for truth is a deeply rooted element in Sander’s work; within a wild array of colors and chimeras, his work seeks to question the fundamental basis of our existence. His work is innocent of strategic intention; it flows from a waking dream, the subconscious being the gatekeeper to the hidden and exquisite parts of the soul. He says that he views his work as I would do – he is no closer to the source of his inspiration than I am. “I feel I am simply channelling ideas that are somehow floating around up there already, making them solid. I don’t start with the finished vision, that would be uninteresting. I would know the final result before embarkation. I prefer to take a journey with each work and see what is revealed.”
He explains that he draws from his subconscious; animal chimeras emerge from the paper, the familiar bird and trickster cat, followed by the symbolic dog. “The bird is the symbol of the soul, imagination and the sprit. And the cat I often have as the aggressor, and it’s the enemy of the bird”. Dog 101 is the recurring hound motif, it is contradictory in meaning usually a symbol of loyalty and protection, or occasionally as the aggressor. When asking about the source of his creatures Sanders directs me towards viewing his work as a question, as opposed to an answer: “Things emerge naturally. I don’t tend to question or attempt to analyze it…. When we ask what are we doing on the earth, where we came from, where are we going? To ask where an artwork is derived from is rudimentary”.
His work shares certain similarities to that of an outsider artist, he often finds ephemera off the street and incorporates it into his art. Animal bones and rusted shrapnel dredged from the banks of the Thames are strewn about; some adorn intricate shrines inspired by his catholic upbringing. He says that he finds solace in iconography, when we later discuss Religion he is careful to state that whilst he is agnostic himself, he understands the value of religion regarding the mysteries of life. And the archetypal experience of life is exactly what forms Jim’s painting. “I think it is important for art to be timeless. None of my work centers around contemporary political issues, I look at universal concerns.”
Just before I leave, I ask what he would most wish for someone to take away from his artwork, and typically he replies modestly, “I suppose to understand themselves, their position on the earth, hopefully that…although that might be a bit grand to hope for”.
Discover Jim Sander's full collection here