James Cummins paints large abstract works that deliberately draw parallels to historical texts such as the ancient Sanskrit Rig Veda (Song of Knowledge) and the cuneiform tablets of Babylon.
With these he suggests a different frame of reference, with forms, shapes and impressions of vanished worlds using imagination and erudition. At an iconographic level Cummins strives to develop a new form of expression for a modern age by drawing upon the language of the ideas, signs and symbols of the ancients.
He uses a variety of techniques to apply these symbols of the world’s first written language which appeared 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) with its characteristic and beautiful wedge shaped signs (Cuneiform is Latin for wedge shape). This was used to create a highly sophisticated literature as well as a vehicle for the preservation and distribution of knowledge.
His brooding and mesmeric abstracts with their intensely worked, finely crafted sculptural surfaces reveal the eternal mysteries of nature and mankind through the ages. Their textural surfaces invite closer and lengthy contemplation, an experience at the same time ancient and completely modern are brought together in his particular idiom.
These images work on many levels simultaneously. We may look at these as shapes, lines, textures and tones as examples of pre-iconography that are interesting and valid in their own way. In so doing we connect with the paintings’ symbolism with wider cultural conventions and meanings potentially relevant to our own (modern) experience and perceptions of the world. Their contemplative power and grandeur can be related to on a timeless, sublime level that transcends the ages and creates a language of its own.
Restrained in the use of colour yet deeply evocative and mysterious, Cummins’ work gives the feeling of containing ancient truths, representing the embodiment of long and arduous meditation. He likes to paint large canvases because they bring the viewer into them, creating a sense of intimacy through our individual relationship with the painting. Through their transfixing quality, they are a timeless response to the universal mysteries of the human condition.