Mandala, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
84 x 59cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D01, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D02, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D03, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
From the Series 'Limited Means' D04, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D05, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D06, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D07, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
From the Series 'Limited Means' D08, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D09, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  From the Series 'Limited Means' D10, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
42x 29cm
  Boner, 2009
Pencil on paper
60 x 42cm
Digital, 2009
Pencil on paper
60 x 42cm
  Centaur Rodeo, 2009
Pencil on paper
60 x 42cm
  Pyramid Scheme, 2009
Pencil on paper
60 x 42cm
  Line Drawing, 2009
Pencil on paper
60 x 42cm
An Entire Blue Ball-Point Pen, 2009
Blue ball-point pen on paper
84 x 59 cm
  Trepanning for Beginners , 2009
Polymerised plaster & acrylic glaze
14.5 x 14.5 x 17 cm
  Lepidoptera, 2009
14 parts, polymerised plaster & thread
Dimensions variable
  In The Garden, 2009
Etching on paper, edition of 23 + 2 ap
23 x 29.5 cm

BIC / RELIC an essay by Dorothy Feaver


Well your toe bone connected to your foot bone,
Your foot bone connected to your heel bone,
Your heel bone connected to your ankle bone,
Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone,
Your leg bone connected to your knee bone,
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone,
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone,
Your hip bone connected to your back bone,
Your back bone connected to your shoulder bone,
Your shoulder bone connected to your neck bone,
Your neck bone connected to your head bone,
Now hear the word of the Lord!


Ann-Marie James’ recent work has taken its lead from minimal resources: Gray’s Anatomy and a Biro, school-desk stuff. In the series of drawings ‘Limited Means’, she has worked, devotedly, from Gray’s illustrations, but like a good student gone naughty, has let Gothic patterns bloom across the paper in tattoo-blue ink. Skulls, bones and other body parts are reconstituted, in miscellaneous scales. Human anatomy is deliteralized. See the skull flanked by brains-cum-wings and frilly bone-knappings (D06), for example. Or the four humeri (D05), swinging from a lattice of fingers, a ding-dong of colons between neighbouring pictures. With a kaleidoscopic logic, new arrangements proceed, from one anatomical figure to the next, alighting on harmonies, often oblique. They move to the tune of that old spiritual song, ‘Dem Bones’, whose more creative anatomical connections (a heel bone? a head bone?) are given sway by the chromatic ascension of the verses.

‘Limited Means’, although plainly numbered, draws breath through a proliferation of question marks. These are to be found in the odd smudge or flicker of asymmetry. Two pairs of hands reach out (D02), knuckle-dusting crisp. Look closely and they are riddled with irregular shadows. Four pairs of conjoined feet constituting a giant X (D09) almost urge attention away from a blip in the X-ray - but in the bottom left corner, extending from a knot of small parts, the third metatarsal has been left to hover, a ghost-bone. Bowling in between these hairline tableaux is the heart (D04), deep blue in its corpulence, and a shock. And there are the question marks left in the blanks, where the paper forms its own white shapes against the ink: it bursts as a pow! between a garland of brains (D03), it forms bright eyelets (D05), it combs the vertebrae (D10).

A former devotee of the click pencil, in this case James opted for the Bic Orange Fine, a classic of post-war design and the everyman choice (57 Bic Biros are sold every second). The Orange Fine promises between two to three kilometers of 0.2mm wide line, and for James, it served as both measurement’s tool and its subject. Her assessment of the human body in terms of the straight line* encompasses a test of the ballpoint pen’s consistency and output. Unlike a pencil or pen and ink, the ballpoint eliminates leaks, spills and broken tips. It dispenses ink only when the ball bearing comes into contact with a surface, rotating in its socket and dragging ink from the cartridge. Having anticipated a haul of eight drawings, James’ Bic held out for ten. Although its ball had worn down (D10 sports denser, thicker lines), it was to outlive the ink, and the barrel survives, like a sacred bone that has worn away to a shiny sliver. Singled out above all James’ stationary, it brings to mind a prize relic from the Royal Museum of Scotland, a treacle-coloured bone from the hand of Robert the Bruce; the idea of the pen as an extension of the hand clicks into place.

From Bics to relics, the path of James’ recent work is at once diachronic and off-beat. Drawings give way to etchings (sprouting all over) and sculpture on a doll’s house scale. A recent visit to her apartment, where the work was in progress, revealed casts of miniature skulls and bones laid out in rows on the floor, awaiting the attentions of a titchy drill. Through trepanning and pinning, the wee skulls were to be constructed into a growth the size of an adult head. Skeletons were to be fixed in butterfly formations, and suspended from the ceiling, a shower of curlicues.

James’ flat is high above the traffic, but there was a whirring in there that had me puzzled. The skulls stared back from their scores of dinky sockets. The sound turned out to emanate from a stack of cages in the corner. Cloths were draped over the top to protect the inhabitants from any fumes (the skeletons are cast in Jesmonite, a solvent-free resin, but you cannot be too careful). Whirring away, her hamsters were looping the loop, delivering their own lines, busying the living room.


A Wreath
George Herbert (1633)

A wreathed garland of deserved praise,
Of praise deserved, unto thee I give,
I give to thee, who knowest all my wayes,
My crooked winding wayes, wherein I live,
Wherein I die, not live: for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to thee,
To thee, who art more farre above deceit,
Then deceit seems above simplicitie.
Give me simplicitie, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know, thy wayes,
Know them and practise them: then shall I give
For this poore wreath, give thee a crown of praise.

Ann-Marie James
Born in England, 1981. Lives and works in London.
2001 – 2004   Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
University of the Arts, London
BA (Hons) Fine Art
2000 – 2001   Cambridge Regional College, Cambridge
BTEC Foundation Diploma in Art and Design
2006   Lantana Projects Residency
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
2009   Shortlisted, LICC London International Creative Competition
2003   The Queens Award, Central Saint Martins Scholarship Awards
2009-2010   Ann-Marie James: Danse Macabre, FIrst Floor Projects, London (solo)
Anonymous Drawings No. 10, Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien, Berlin
2009   Westminster Arts Open Exhibition 2009, SW1 Gallery, London, Selected by Suzanne Cotter - Curator at Large, Modern Art Oxford, Professor Joanna Woodall - Courtauld Institute, Heidi Hazeu - Manager, SW1 Gallery, Mary-Alice Stack - Chair, Westminster Arts, Robert Gordon McHarg - Artist & Curator, Subway Gallery, Bridget Crowley - Wallace Collection & Tate Britain
The Drawing Salon, The Mews Project Space, Autumn Exhibition, Brick Lane, London
Watch This Space, 2009, Opera Quarter, Covent garden, London
2006   ING Discerning Eye 2006, The Mall Galleries, London
Pulsar, Galería de Arte Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela
Ann-Marie James 'Mobile' (solo), The Medicine Factory, Memphis, Tennessee
Friday Late Nights at the Whitechapel, The Wormhole Saloon, Whitechapel Gallery, London
Ann-Marie James / Daniel Todd: Beginning at the end, Art at Carnaby/ National Campaign for the Arts, London
Basement Art Project,
2005   Max 5 Video Festival, Cafe Gallery Projects, London
Artist’s Video Lounge, South London Gallery, London
2004   The Bigger Picture, Co-ordinated by The Cornerhouse, Manchester and the BBC Exchange Square, Manchester
Rencontres internationales Paris/Berlin, Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris
Tank TV,
ARTéNÎM, ‘Artskool’ project, Parc Expo Nîmes, Nîmes
60 Seconds, Space-twotentwo, London & 291 Gallery, London
BA (HONS) Fine Art Degree Show 2004, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London
Salt, 291 Gallery, London(X)HIBIT, Davies Street Gallery, University Of The Arts, London
Artskool, Paris – London Book Project (Publication and Exhibition), Galerie gauche, École nationale supériure des beaux-arts, Paris
Le Salon Montrouge, Centre Administratif de Montrouge, Paris, travelling to Musée Armadeo CARDOSO de SOUZA, Portugal