"I paint to reconcile cognitive experience with material process. My work is concerned with material agency and how the ecology and processes of the studio can infect and contaminate the way we attempt to make art as well as the way we understand subjective conceptions of self. Images from reoccurring moments of domestic experience are aligned with symbolic forms of representation culled from my ongoing research into alchemical thought and processes. Through this coalescence of material engagement, perception, and cognitive function, I make use of painting as a philosophical tool to examine and (re)construct aspects of identity and scrutinize conceptions of consciousness.

My recent work began while experimenting with methods in which the support of a painting was constructed in tandem with pictorial development. Instead of using a preconceived rectilinear structure, I began constructing supports that entered into a direct complimentary relationship with the surface of my paintings. This concern led to cutting apart works, recombining parts of paintings, fusing works together, and so on. As this process evolved, the boundaries between discrete works began to erode. I became interested in the space of the studio itself, systems of making, agency, and how material processes can generate meaning and create new forms of knowledge. 

My research focuses on developing a vocabulary to describe the intersection of material processes and cognition. Early on, James Elkins’ ‘What Painting Is’ (New York: Routledge, 1999), introduced me to the subject of alchemy and this subject has been instrumental in my research since. By describing material transformations in symbolic ways that are reflective of the practitioner’s psychological states, alchemy has proven a useful lens to think about painting. This topic has expanded into other branches of Western Esotericism such as Astrology and Tarot. I am currently contextualizing this research within contemporary discourse. I am pursing this research in the hopes that I will discover and develop new frameworks that speak to painting in ways more grounded in experiences of making that do not avoid subjective experience."

It is worth noting that my individual studio practice is complemented, compromised, high jacked, and precariously balanced with attempts at collective art making, curatorial pursuits, and varied critically rigorous forms of jackassery through cavorting around with the people of VSVSVS. For more information about VSVSVS you can visit

Gardner has been the recipient of multiple grants from the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Canada Council for the Arts. James was nominated for the RBC Painting Award in 2014. Recent exhibitions include his solo show Painting Eaters at Katzman Contemporary in Toronto and Cured Soil at PDA Projects in Ottawa. In addition to the upcoming show at Campus Gallery at Georgian College in Barrie, Gardner will be having his second solo show with Katzman Contemporary in November 2017.  James Gardner was born in Kitchener Ontario in 1983 and currently lives and works In Toronto. As of September 2017, James will be commencing his MFA at Concordia University in Montreal.

The Painting Eaters