Linda James

Discord/Out of the Chaos

Drawing, Painting & Installation
COCA Christchurch New Zealand 1998


I have been working as a full-time artist and exhibiting in New Zealand since 1980. After graduating from the Canterbury School of Fine Arts (Dip FA Hons, 1983), I began exploring ways of working with the concept of montage. I was interested in the active sense of montage as a causal factor in our ways of seeing and of communicating what we see or want to have seen.

These initial explorations led to the investigation of how I might take the very concept of painting out of the framework of its cultural and social constructs, and reframe it as an element of that montage. To this end I began working on installations in which the conceptual apparatus of painting, as a cultural expression in the language of western arts traditions and practices, was isolated, exposed, and then used to contribute to, rather than comprise, the whole of an installation work.

Jacob Wrestling with an Angel - detail

As part of the development of this approach in 1988 I began working with images from existing paintings. By using existing images as the structural basis for my work it became possible to isolate the notion of painted image, and place it in montage relation to the paintings themselves, to my own subject matter, to the cultural and social context informing my perspectives, and to my craft as an artist.

My approach, therefore, is largely abstract; the notion painting becomes a reality of medium. In this way I am able to deliberately acknowledge the images elements of time, place and subject matter, which taken together, synthesize the context of cultural language traditions which give my painting meaning, while at the same time fusing them into a single element of montage.

Part of this development of my work is the intention to take it outside of the boundaries with which I am most familiar. My work takes place in a relatively new post-colonial environment, and reflects the ways in which antecedent cultural languages are re-worked in that context. I want to take my expression of that reworking and display it in the broader context of different, varied or divergent cultural languages.


These paintings concerned the theme of discord and conflict. The images, taken from existing paintings, are of war and fighting. Reconstructing these images of discord, conflict and isolated heroic moments, in readily accessible (as in recognizable) expressions of the language of painting traditions in western art, enabled me to deal with, the way in which the continuity of actual discord and conflict in human affairs relates to our predisposition to see events as pictures (moments) held in place by their frames.

SLIDES: Click on images to view enlarged

Discord/ Out of the Chaos:
Quarrel at Venta Nueva (Goya):
1998 Acrylic oil on linen-backed paper: 550 x 610

Discord/ Out of the Chaos:
Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs (Michelangelo):
1999 Oil on loose canvas

Discord/ Out of the Chaos:
The Abduction of the Daughters of Leucippus (Rubens):
1998 Acrylic oil on loose canvas: 2100 x 1600

Discord/ Out of the Chaos:
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (Delacroix):
1999 Oil on loose canvas: 1400 x 1920

Quarrel at Venta Nueva

Jacob Wrestling with an Angel

The Abduction of the
Daughters of Leucippus

Massacre of the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents (Giotto 1305):
1998 Oil acrylic on linen-backed paper: 550 x 750

Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs

Installation: Rangiora Library Gallery 1999

I enlarged pen drawings of war paintings (by the Victorian artist, Lady Elizabeth Butler) onto surfaces made from the pages of cooking encyclopedias, knitting patterns, sewing books and novels. The drawings were exhibited with extracts from Lady Butlers writing. In this montage I was interested in the juxtaposing the ongoing narrative of the ordinary, with its dynamism of not only enduring to the present time but actually sustaining it, with the static, therefore passive, tableaux of extraordinary events, framed as separate and single events of the past. In this way the notion of narrative becomes the field on which the pictorial action takes place.

3.Narrative of War:
The Defence of Rorke's Drift (Lady Elizabeth Butler)
Ink on cooking encyclopedia:
Four parts, each 1200 x 1500

The Defenece of Rorke's Drift


My work for this installation was centered on images of the female nude, and their place in the language of western culture. The term disegno interno alludes to the Renaissance philosophy that the artist's responsibility is to draw the ideal, which exists only in the artists minds, rather than the real. I was exploring the notion of painting as display, and how this relates to our ways of seeing the human body in both real and painted terms.

Susannah and the Elders (Artemisia Gentileschi)
1995 Oil on canvas: 1100 x 1350

The Turkish Bath (Ingres 1864)
1996 Oil and Acrylic on canvas: 1820 x 2070