James Dodds’ paintings strike the eye with lines true to his focus on particular boats and the seas they once knew. His pitch dark backgrounds, surfaces, and colours are alike to layers of tar and tallow, marine paint and rust. As a collection of paintings, they manifest themselves as studies of vernacular working boats of the British Isles'.
Depending on sea state and launching abilities, the type of fishing or working nature, James explores the design of vessels and celebrates the work of the boat builder and craftsman who make them. From a Shetland Fourern boat, a Viking shaped long and thin form to a square, bold, Hastings beach boat. Dodds' paintings are an assembly of observations on the variations in shape and why boats have been crafted in such a way to serve the nation in the maritime industry.
'Shaped by the Sea' was filmed by Emily Harris who shadowed James at home, in his riverside studios in Wivenhoe, and into various boatyards such as Harker's Yard, Brightlingsea and St. Osyth's Boatyard.
It was important to observe James working in his numerous environments to harness at least a few elements that give him inspiration for his work, but also to gage and record his close and shared relationship with boat builders and the ‘working man’. The sensibilities behind James’ work mostly stems from between 1972-76, when after art school, James undertook an apprenticeship in boatbuilding in Maldon and Southampton. After a visit to a local Wivenhoe boatyard featured in the film Dodds reflects on boat building now, “Back then [in the 1970’s] it was much more of an industrial kind of job”, “you actually clocked-in”, that now the life of a boat builder is now similar “to that of an artist”.
Throughout the 1990s James Dodds concentrated solely on Linocuts that really set him up as a renowned artist on the East Coast of England. It was in 2000 when James ventured into working with oil on canvas paintings that are now highly sort after and can be found by Messum’s of Cork Street, a London gallery that represent him.
Two parallels maybe seen within the oil on canvas work he produces. The first is the application of his practical experience in boat building. How he translates his trained eye – seeing the ‘lines’ [shape] of vessel and illustrating them in a painting.
Secondly, his dedication for recording these “fast disappearing” vessels that are so much apart of the British Isles’ maritime heritage. The precision in recording the design seen in his paintings is a celebration of those who have made them, purely to work the seas and serve the nation.
Seen exclusively in this film, Dodds’ personal attention is also drawn to the industry of British shipbuilding. The losses in the sector in the 1970s and the attached threads of social dissipation and union pandemonium which is something exhibited in Part 2 of this production, in a painting called ‘Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’.
In this painting there is a homage to the skill of the working man - the shipwright, a painting that hints at what is not so obvious subjectively in this collection of oils which simply, as a whole just show boats.
Part 1 and 2 of this production are as much a real insight in to painting boats as a personal insight into artist James Dodds. This film is sponsored by Messum’s, who represent James Dodds. www.messums.co.uk