James Birkin (born 1991) is a painter based in the Coventry whose work explores the urban landscape in its many forms. After studying a Fine Art BA and a painting MA at Coventry University, he has been able to delve deeper into the subject matter that has been evolving since 2012. The artist has exhibited notably in New Art West Midlands 2014, Salon 2015, and the Coventry Biennial 2019 and subsequent local exhibitions.
Birkin’s paintings focus on overlooked and unappreciated fragments of the British landscape that sit in states of disrepair and neglect, an all too familiar site in redeveloping post-industrial cities in the Midlands and the North. The buildings stand as monuments to a bygone era and exist in a state of limbo where their fate is still waiting to be decided. The buildings are primarily sites of leisure, cinemas, and pubs. Sites that were once an integral part of the local community gradually disintegrate as the world around them changes and they fall into obscurity and redundancy. They are products of a failed monetary system and a reflection of a dramatic shift in how people spend their leisure time in the modern world as the internet takes yet more prominence. Grand cinemas from the 1920s are swept away to make way for modern retail developments and luxury apartments. Old pubs are boarded up and demolished to make way for a new supermarket or student accommodation. The urban landscape is a battle ground for property developers and the paintings aim to capture the fragility of the fabric that ties the past with the present and questions if the built environment can be allowed to naturally develop and give disused buildings a second chance at life, to provide a new purpose. The paintings explore the melancholic story of a place that has reached the end of its days, awaiting an opportunity to rise again or fade away into history.