Shani Rhys James’ work has a magnetism which is incomparable to other artists. She is one of Wales’ most prominent contemporary figurative artists and is also internationally acclaimed.
Her work ‘Studio with Gloves’ epitomises Shani Rhys James’ works which are large, powerful, raw, emotional, bold, direct, vibrant, challenging and even disturbing at times and where imaginative and observational elements often co-exist. In her abstract compositions she searches for truth and reflects her vision of the human condition. Many of her works as ‘Studio with Gloves’ are self-portraits where the psychological state is central to the work. In this work the artist is being dwarfed by her cluttered studio.
In an interview with Jo Manzelis for the 'Wales Art Review' Shani Rhys James stated that Studio paintings preoccupied her for several years as she stated that they were about looking, and discovering the relationship between unfamiliar objects. It was a preoccupation with the habitat of the studio, looking at one object against another - the discarded gloves, the rags, the tubes of paint, the tins. The artist stated that the symbolism was a mini scaled world of processed industrial materials, often poisonous to the artist. Her father was a surgeon and he would regularly send her surgical gloves to protect her from the lead in the paint. As she stated and as can be seen in the painting the artist would place a large ‘poisonous’ cross on the white tins of lead paint she no longer used.
The gloves are often used symbolically within her paintings of studio interiors perhaps conveying her fear of the emotional process of painting and therefore of the need to protect the hands. As the art critic Edward Lucie-Smith stated: ‘She is dedicated to it, but also feels threatened by it’. This is nowhere more powerfully portrayed than in this work where one feels that the artist is drowning in a sea of paint and clutter in her own studio. Edward Lucie-Smith also argued: ‘The studio clutter, with its tins and tube speaks of an artist who may perhaps live in an isolated rural location, but who can’t escape completely from the context of a modern industrial society’.
Shani Rhys James acknowledges that she gives a somewhat enigmatic image in her works and the viewer is therefore given the freedom to interpret them as they see fit.