The Velocity of James Nares

Some might recognize the the art of James Nares from the enormous swooping ribbons of paint he applies to canvases while hanging from a harness. Others might know him from his video Steet (2011), which depicts a high-definition slow-motion panorama of New York at street-level, and which drew crowds last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The common thread through three decades of work is Nares’ fascination with movement. On view at Paul Kasmin beginning this week, his latest series is no exception.

Dubbed “High Speed Drawings,” Nares created the pieces by wrapping sheets of heavyweight Saunders paper around a mechanized steel drum, which, when turned on, rotates fast enough to generate a loud hum. He then takes a paint brush attached to a homemade ink dispenser, and, barely moving his hand, forms strings of color until the canvas is to his liking. “It’s like a constant feed,” he says of his brushes, which he rigged with a fishing rod. “I can make the finest lines with it. And I can make pretty big smudgy lines too.” (Nares is known for inventing tools to make his art. “All my inventions are inventions of necessity,” he adds.)

With “High Speed Drawings,” the unfurled paper is the final result. From afar, lines can appear as specific as pinstripes. But it’s not so up close: It’s a challenge, if not impossible to spot one line that goes straight across. “They morph into something else as they move along,” says Nares. “There’s this organic feeling to something that’s quite mechanical.”

Nares was born in Britain, and moved to New York in 1974, where he started out as a photographer, eventually becoming a musician and filmmaker of the punk subsect No Wave movement in the late 1970s and 80s. A show last year at Paul Kasmin displayed snapshots he took of Soho and Tribeca when he first arrived to the city. In the press release, Nares connected his youthful interest in the street scenes to Street, which he shot in 2011. This latest series is an adjacent step to the film. “That was a high-speed camera; these are high-speed drawings,” he explains. “The whole film is one line. And these are one-liners too, in a way.” Nares can’t help but hone in on movementhere, fleeting, minute motions. “In Street, you see little moments that happen between people—gestures that are very small, but they become amplified and very important,” he describes. “The paintings are a bit like that. The movements of the brush… I move too quickly to calculate what I’m doing. It’s a marriage of design and spontaneity of the moment. A good marriage. I like to think so.”