Irish conceptual artist. He studied from 1960 to 1961 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, then at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, and from 1963 to 1966 at the National College of Art, Dublin. A scholarship to Italy allowed him to complete his studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan from 1966 to 1971, subsequently making this city his main home and holding his first exhibition there in 1968. From the early 1970s Coleman made installations using audio tapes, slides and projected film to investigate social and political themes. His Slide Piece (1973, exh. Paris Biennale, 1973, and London, Tate, 1982) presents a series of identical colour images of a street, with a recorded commentary describing visible features from different subjective viewpoints, so that a dialogue is set up between the sameness of each total image and the different details to which our attention is drawn. Another installation, Strongbow (exh. 1980, Cork, Crawford Mun. A.G.; now in Dublin, Irish MOMA), consisted of a darkened room with a sculptural effigy of the Anglo-Norman knight who led the invasion of Ireland in 1172, his hands folded in prayer. On a video monitor, an orange and a green hand clap together, slowly at first, then rising to a crescendo, one hand becoming inseparable from the other as a metaphor for unity in Ireland. From the 1980s Coleman worked with composer Roger Doyle and actress Olwen Fouere on colour videos that were more theatrical in conception.
D. Walker: ‘James Coleman', A. Ireland, ii/1 (1974), pp. 14–21
James Coleman (exh. cat., text by J. Fisher, Dublin, Trinity Coll., Hyde Gal., 1982)
J. Fisher: The Enigma of the Hero in the Work of James Coleman (Derry, 1983)