Cameron Jamie’s Alternative Modes of Communication

At Museum der Moderne Salzburg, the artist rebels against the limits of traditional media

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BY Francesca Gavin in EU Reviews , Exhibition Reviews | 24 NOV 22

Currently on view across five rooms at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Cameron Jamie’s drawings are perhaps best understood in the context of experimental music. Music, that is, in which improvisation is a methodology to create alternative modes of communication and a form of ethical repositioning of how we experience art. It’s no coincidence that Jamie, whose works on paper can be seen to translate the freedom of sound into a visual form, grew up listening to avant-garde musicians such as Sun Ra and Blowfly.

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Cameron Jamie, ‘Shaking Traces’, 2022–23, exhibition view, Museum der Moderne Salzburg. Courtesy: the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York / Brussels / Seoul / Los Angeles; Photograph: Rainer Iglar

Bringing together 27 years of drawings, monotypes, photocopied handmade books, lithographs and drawings in ceramic, ‘Shaking Traces’ displays Jamie’s engagement with the visceral aspects of being human. Six large-scale drawings displayed on wooden boards and leant against the walls, for instance, echo the height and shape of the artist’s body. The largest piece on display, La mémoire interne (Internal Memory, 2007), is a drawing encased in a vitrine that resembles a body on an autopsy table or the recumbent figure in Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christ (1480). The physiological references are also visible in the artist’s wall-based ceramic works, in which deep thumb impressions undulate in the glazed clay like vertebra. Sweet Ch’ Boogie (2018), for example, resembles the fossilized bones of an alien being.

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Cameron Jamie, Sweet Ch' Boogie, 2018, ceramic and glaze, 96.5 × 67.5 cm. Courtesy: the artist and kamel mennour, Paris

Another ongoing trope in Jamie’s practice is the reduction of the human form to something resembling a head atop a twisted spinal cord. At times, we see something animalistic – a horn, perhaps, or a beak – as in the messy, mauve monotype Sugar Plum Fairy (2014). At others, intestines seem to spill out from loosely formed bodies (Smiling Disease Drawing VII, 2008). There are repeated allusions to masks and ritual, which are also recurring symbols in Jamie’s films and photographic work, such as Kranky Klaus (2003), his documentary about Krampus rituals. Jamie’s work emerged from the banal conformity of suburban California – a zombie-like context he described in a 2001 Artforum interview with Gary Indiana as ‘a maximum-security prison’ – from which his abstracted figures slip away.

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Cameron Jamie, Sugar Plum Fairy, 2014, monotype, 71 × 50.5 cm. Courtesy: the artist 

Jamie’s processes aim to manipulate and refuse the structural limits of traditional media. There are large monotypes made by compacting watercolour and pencil against a two-metre sheet of paper using a 12-tonne press, the grain of the wood still visible in the final impression. The darker, smaller untitled drawings on handcrafted paper, made in Berlin around 2013, are replete with coffee, ink and stains hinting at the experimentation of Jamie’s studio practice. His use of non-traditional techniques – such as shaving works with disposable razors or using kitchen knives to scrape into the page – means that his drawings often edge towards relief sculpture.

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Cameron Jamie, ‘Shaking Traces’, 2022–23, exhibition view, Museum der Moderne Salzburg. Courtesy: the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York / Brussels / Seoul / Los Angeles; Photograph: Rainer Iglar

At the heart of the exhibition are two vitrines displaying bookseller Walter König’s complete personal collection of Jamie’s photocopied books. Capturing the artist’s diaristic, daily drawings, these 50 or so small, Xeroxed documents form a lexicon of line and approach. Though initially appearing to have the DIY energy of a punk zine, the depth of toner, the placement of the staples, and the positioning and bleed of the copied images – which are often layered on top of each other in densely rendered compositions – reveal how meticulously they were put together. At times, they echo the tension between the handmade and mechanical reproduction of Hanne Darboven’s Calendar Book (1992) or Ian Burn’s Xerox Book (1968).

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Cameron Jamie, ‘Shaking Traces’, 2022–23, exhibition view, Museum der Moderne Salzburg. Courtesy: the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York / Brussels / Seoul / Los Angeles; Photograph: Rainer Iglar

Presenting a comprehensive overview of Jamie’s expansive take on drawing, ‘Shaking Traces’ reveals the artist’s exploration of the improvised, intuitive line as a means of devising a language of artistic, aesthetic and – like the aural vocabulary of free jazz – social resistance.

Cameron Jamie’s ‘Shaking Traces’ is on view at Museum der Moderne Salzburg until 5 February, 2023.

Main image: Inflorescence Structure V, 2018, monotype in watercolour, crayon and pencil on Lanaquarelle paper, 1.7 × 1.2 m. Courtesy: the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York / Brussels / Seoul / Los Angeles

Francesca Gavin is a writer, curator and Contributing Editor for Kaleidoscope and Twin, based in London, UK.

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