From Sarahjane Swan's hometown of Dunbar, in East Lothian, self-taught artist, James Craig Page, has been producing vibrant, exciting and hyper-imaginative paintings for many years now. As well as his Church of Gloss art-movement, inspired by a cloud over the Wicker Man Festival, JCP has garnered a great deal of attention for the meditative practice of stone stacking, appearing several times on prime-time BBC1, setting up the European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and travelling to Austin, Texas, for the World Championship.
Last year Avant Kinema were privileged to be able to add these two James Craig Page originals to our collection.
Here's our interview with James. Avant Kinema: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where are you based now?
James Craig Page: Who am I? I am a singular aspect of consciousness having a living experience. I was born in Dunbar and remain there.
AK: Could you give us a history of your involvement with creating visual art?
JCP: I began creating art in my early 30s after being made redundant from my gardening job working with Sir George Taylor at Belhaven Gardens, Dunbar. I had written poetry and short stories for many years, but I remember the first piece of wood I found on the beach that I took home and painted on. I had no money for materials, and remember going to the early learning centre in St James Centre in Edinburgh to buy Poster paint for £1.00 a bottle. My brother in law worked in a paper factory and gave me large sheets, which I stapled together to create a canvas. I mixed up the paint, threw it on, and began experimenting like a child with primary colours. I'd wait till it dried then identify shapes, faces, creatures and then outline them in black line. I learned more from the paint that day than I ever did in art class at school. After a year unemployed I painted every day, more for my sanity than anything else. After another 6 months I got put on a job club course to encourage me to get a real job. I left after a day, walked home from Musselburgh penniless, and booked the local library, free of charge to hold my first exhibition. I decided I had nothing to lose and a houseful of art to sell. So a month later I sold 6 pieces at my first exhibition and never looked back. I've also never had a "real" job since.
AK: What were the major influences in the arts and in life which encouraged you to become involved in this field?
JCP: Finding I enjoyed playing with paint and general poverty encouraged me to keep going.
AK: What does the word experimental mean to you?
JCP: The word experimental means the starting point of an interesting journey.
AK: At Avant Kinema we have a particular interest in low budget, DIY or LoFi forms of creativity. What are your thoughts on creating work this way?
JCP: I have always created stuff with inspiration not money.
AK: Could you talk us through the whole process of how you generally go about creating a work, from the initial concepts through to the finishing touches?
JCP: I have never started a painting or a rock stack with any thought whatsoever, preferring to work from a Dwamic state of doing without thinking. Then I may reach a point where I consciously interact with what's been created, but not always. I have studied meditation, mediumship and palm reading from my teenage years, so find it easy to switch off, tune in, then create.
AK: What do you use to generate ideas and stimulate your creativity?
JCP: Nature has become my muse, and I've never failed to be inspired by her beauty.
AK: Have you been able to get much in the way of funding towards travel to festivals or for your art in general?
JCP: Through creating the European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and curating a major Land Art Exhibition at Summerhall Gallery, Edinburgh, it has opened doors to funding opportunities. I have had very little in the way of personal funding, and find writing applications to be the 2nd most arduous task I've come across in life. AK: Could you tell us what Stone Stacking is and how you came about the practice? What is your philosophy? Is it art or meditation?
JCP: Stonebalancing is a process of creative meditation which teaches you more about yourself and the inner life of Nature than 25 years of modern schooling ever could. I became aware of this practice through online videos and the photographic work of Michael Grab aka Gravity Glue, then through meeting and working with Sterling Gregory, Travis Williams, Tim Anderson and such like Land Artists from around the globe.
AK: Can you tell us what The Church Of Gloss is? How you created it and what it stands for?
JCP: The Church of Gloss or C.o.G was formed around 2007, after I met a cloud in the sky above the Wicker Man festival. Shortly afterwards I was given a word that came to me as a sound. This sound/word then revealed itself to me over a period of five years. I was in the presence of a another friend when I received this. I then chose a few trusted creative and spiritually minded friends to share the word with. We now have 111 members around the world: including a few well known musicians, actors and artists I've been fortunate enough to meet and trusted enough to share the word with. It was initially an art collective started with Callum Easter, with a spiritually minded ethos for self exploration and colloboration, and has evolved into something much more.
AK: What was it like appearing on The One Show on prime time BBC1 and having such wide media coverage?
JCP: Appearing on The One Show and Landward earlier this year was a great way to communicate my passion for this art form, and to make people aware of the many amazing artists and human beings that make up the ever expanding balancing community that I now feel a big part of. It encourages me to keep on doing what I truly love, even if the wages aren't that great!
AK: Do you have any future exhibitions, installations or artworks you would like to tell us about?
JCP: I'm currently curating the Dunbar Street Art Trail event 17th-26th Aug including a shop window pop-up exhibition featuring international and local artists and musicians. I will also be creating a Zen Balance Garden at Summerhall for the Edinburgh Fringe festival with Sterling Gregory. There will also be photographs from the Art of Balance exhibition, held earlier this year, featuring some of the best stone balancers and land artists from around the world. We are currently looking at options to tour this show in London and New York.
You can see more of my work at:
Art of Balance short film.
By C.o.G Productions.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, James Craig Page.