Visual art: The unpredictable magic of Merlin James

To the Present – Merlin James
Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

To the Present is a compact mini-retrospective of the work of Merlin James, including works dating as far back as the mid-1980s. As far back, that is, as the work he was making for his MA at the Royal College of Art in London. James was born in south Wales and first attended Cardiff College of Art before going on to the Central School of Art and the RCA in London. He’s of a generation with the iconoclastic Young British Artists but he was never associated with them. That’s not because he was and is a painter – there were several painters among their ranks. It might have been because there seemed to be something consciously old-fashioned about his approach. To say that he drew inspiration firmly from traditional easel painting rather than the

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