James Chen-Wishart is a New Zealand/Taiwanese and British contemporary artist based in Bristol, UK. He works using a wide variety of techniques and media but predominantly on canvas in oil and acrylic. James’s practice takes inspiration from many places including traditional art, expressionism, abstract portraiture and fashion illustration.

His work explores ideas around consciousness, existence, reality and connection. He balances his work between powerful yet sensitive portraiture and creating his ‘Obliteration Portraits’, figurative skeleton paintings in dark voids with heads made of light, colour and organic forms.

OBLITERATION PORTRAITS is a new solo show comprising of 33 original paintings by James Chen-Wishart. The title is a reference to Yayoi Kusama’s idea of ‘Self Obliteration’, which she achieved in her work through the use of repetition and pattern. James Chen-Wishart uses paintings of figurative skeletons in dark voids with heads made of light, colour and organic forms.

I chose the motif of skeletons because while I love drawing the human figure, I think the flesh is too distracting, in the same way I now think skulls are too distracting. They are both already loaded as motifs and have too many established associations. By stripping back the forms to skeletons, I still retain the human element, the gesture, and the story but without the context and without immediately having to engage in the discourse around the ways in which we categorise and differentiate ourselves from one another. I seek to obliterate these things if only temporarily so people are actually looking at my work instead of looking at something they already have established subjective opinions on.

These artworks are to be seen as portraits that call for the re-imagination of the self, taking forward the things that are meaningful and leaving behind the things that stop you from seeing and feeling.

The void space represents how reality is rarely fully perceived by our senses. The organic forms and abstract colours express the altering of perception, for example when we connect with something meaningful outside of the everyday or in the act of creating. I want this to be a body of work to be about humanity, emotions and encounters that transport us to different experiences of our existence. We are all just skeletons walking around in darkness made light and colour through the actions of our senses and our minds.

OBLITERATION PORTRAITS is open from the 5th of May until the 5th of April at 212 PRODUCTIONS Everyman cinema Driveway by, Entrance behind, 19 Melrose Pl, Bristol BS8 2NG and is open Tuesdays, Thursdays 9am-6:30pm Saturday-Sunday 12pm-4pm until the 5th of May. It is possible to visit other days but it’s recommend to call ahead (07804700868) and make an appointment to insure the studio is open and someone is there to answer any enquiries you may have. All are welcome.

Link to online gallery:




The OBLITERATION PORTRAITS PV is sponsored by local Brewery LOST AND GROUNDED https://www.lostandgrounded.co.uk/