Driven by an empathy for the misrepresented within collective memory, Nilsen-Misra champions auspicious non-binary perspectives. An innovative cross-disciplinary artist, James works from artworld niche to contemporary forms of global cultural media. Investigations into the expressive nature of light to develop character and emotional aspirations are fundamental in all genres of the work. 

Explorations of the ephemeral nature of light and shadow seeking to expose transparency and personal projection. 

Working in inky darkness with just a single lamp to illuminate a scene, I produce slightly eerie filmic and domestic scenes shrouded in shadows. One becomes aware of a deep, yet closeted space, underneath the shadows that draw you inward, as if you are looking deeper into an unknown and unconscious space. 

With black chalk on blacker chalk, the scenes that emerge reflect fragments of life, that question personal projection and transparency in the public domain. As a gay man I'm often uncertain about being completely transparent in spaces of public South Africa and at times find myself moving in the proverbial shadows.

In my diptychs of the same interior space in differing lighting states, the shadows morph as one views a subsequent work in series. There is a double take as shadows have morphed. A syntagmatic structure is created pushing the boundary of the space-time paradigm. An emergence, a reckoning and a poetry of projection and perception. Like two frames of a film, capturing a sense of time.

Staged in the studio and lit with a Caravaggesque treatment that reduces objects to flat black shadow. Viewing these works from the distance, they appear as vacant black voids, yet peering onto their black surfaces, awareness deepens of the depth of shadow beneath and one visits this closeted darkness as it lies unconscious. 

Fram IX from the film Ex Umbra : Chalk Pastel on Fabriano
Frame XV from the film : Ex Umbra Chalk Pastel on Fabriano

His multimedia artwork has been shown at Everard Read, Ebony Curated, Absa L'Atelier and the Mandela Metropolitan. Performance art collaborations include Elgin Rust at the AVA and Athi Patra-Ruga at the opening of the new Stevenson in Cape Town. James served on the Executive & Curatorial Board of the Association for Visual Art, the Handspring Trust and Cape Town Pride. As curator, installing the featured artist retrospective touring exhibition for the National Arts Festival, Association for Visual Art and FNB Johannesburg Art Fair were highlights.

James managed two of Cape Town’s leading prop houses, the contemporary Aartappel and the vintage Hot Tuna collections, the largest of their kinds in Africa. As theatre producer for the Tony Award winning Handspring Puppet Company on the hit play WarHorse, he worked with the National Theatre UK as well as the William Kentridge Studio on collaborations including Ubu and the Truth Commission, Woyzeck on the Highveld & Il Ritorno d'Ulisse.