Born in the centre of Birmingham in 1954 St. James moved around from place to place as a child, living for two years in a caravan next to a railway line with his eldest sister in Staffordshire and later in caravans and chalets by the sea in Devon. Having failed to become a professional footballer he studied art at Bournville School of Art near the Cadburys chocolate factory.
In 1973 he moved on to Cardiff College of Art, and studied Fine Art in the Time Based Media Area under the artist/educator Tom Hudson and tutors John Gingel, Terry Setch and Chris Monger. Here he met and started touring with British performance artists.
In 1976 he appeared on the television quiz show series Mr and Mrs (HTV Television) recording the performance and presenting it as his final degree show. Frowned upon by certain tutors and the external examiners, they begged the question, “well the tellies on, now where are the paintings?”. He went on to tour as a performance artist and video artist.
Existing somewhere between the moving and the static is an excellent description of the work of and intentions of artist St. James. Stepping, as if from one stone to another, he has created artworks primarily in performance art, video art, photography and drawing. He describes it as exploring the physical, the electronic and the pencil equally.
Tours of Europe and North America in the 1980’s with a suitcase full of props brought him recognition as an improvising based performance artist dealing with popular cultural issues and themes. These social based works were performed in galleries, festivals, ferries and shopping centres. Civic Monument a travelling living sculpture (1990 supported by the Art Angel Trust) saw the end of his live performance art works.
Forty of his video pieces have been archived by the British Film Institute in the UK including Mr and Mrs his first video work based on a television game show appearance and Metamorphosis (Headcake 1998). During the 1980’s a number of his video works were broadcast on national television including Timecode (Heartbeat 1988) shown in a number of countries worldwide. The Video Portraits of the 1990’s are some of his best known works including The Swimmer – an 11 monitor installation work in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. These works ranged from miniature single monitor video objects to large multi-monitor installations.
He has represented Britain abroad in a number of exhibitions, performance art events, video screenings and festivals via the British Council and Arts Council, including, Electronically Yours at the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo (1998) and Artec Nagoya, Japan (1995). During 2000 his year- long inter-active digital work Picture Yourself showed at the Scottish National Galleries celebrating the millennium with the public able to see themselves projected on the museum walls. In 2000 his Boy / Girl video diptych showed at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Painting the Century, 101 Portrait Masterpieces from the 20th century including Picasso, Freud, Bacon, Warhol, Munch etc…
Running through St.James’ works there has been a sense of self-portraiture or the portraiture of others. In his recent shows in Moscow, The Journey of St Maurin (2002) and New York Somewhere or Between (2005) there has been a sense of the artist involved in a struggle to locate an inner sense of self and being. And a serious attempt to try and convey this to audience rather than ignore their presence or pander to our obvious emotions. Too much video art has tended to rely on the obvious, cheap tricks and gimmicks; St. James has begun a process of real engagement between self, medium and viewer. On the subject of his drawings St. James describes his paper works as ‘thinking actions’, things that land and are fought onto the paper via thinking.