A native Austrian, Clarissa James was born in Munich in 1972. After working in film production from a young age, the artist would move to the UK to study classical drawing and painting techniques, pursuing her passion for Renaissance and 19th-Century art. Always drawn to the silent and contemplative aspects of painting, a trip to the Far East inspired an interest in the simplicity and clarity of Japanese art and design which has permeated her work ever since.
Clarissa’s meditative canvases seek to use nature to reflect the inner and outer journeys of the self. She is particularly renowned for her mesmerising paintings of birds, peacocks and cranes, depicted against opulent hues of gold and silver which reveal the 19th-Century influences upon her work. Specific in her craft as an artist, Clarissa grinds her own paints to achieve a more unusual luminosity and texture. Her immaculate use of gold leaf brings a further spiritual nature to her work, which combines with her elaborate depictions of avian feathers to create a jewelled, tapestry-like dimension to her oil paintings.
To the artist’s mind, the elegant forms and rhythms of the birds she paints assume a symbolic quality, bridging the spiritual and physical worlds. Nowhere is this focus more apparent than in Clarissa’s preferred subject, the Sandhill Crane. At a first glance still and static on golden backgrounds, their spread wings and imply a sense of rising above the ground. The artist has always felt that their migratory journey mirrors their own life, working between London, Santa Fe, Rome and Salzburg. In her own words:
“Cranes are symbols of happiness, longevity, good fortune and the celebration of life. They also display extraordinary tenacity, flying higher than any other bird as they cross the Himalayas on their migratory journeys. The powerful wings of the Crane are thought to convey the soul up to paradise and spiritual enlightenment”.
Clarissa's work hangs in private collections in Europe, America, Japan and South Africa. In 2006 she was elected an Associate of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and won the Cornelissen & Son Prize for the most outstanding work in that year’s annual exhibition. In 2009 she was elected to Full Membership of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. In 2011, Clarissa completed a six-month residency as a guest painter in Lord Leighton’s Studio at Leighton House Museum, London. Clarissa currently works from her studios in London and Salzburg in Austria.
“Painting to me is the search for beauty and proportion, atmosphere and light - a slow journey into another world."
For more information on Clarissa and the works we have on offer, please visit our website https://www.gladwellpatterson.com/artist/clarissa-james.