Born in London in 1957, Richard Adams first exhibited his paintings in 1982 in Wellington. Since then, the Auckland based artist and accomplished jazz violinist has become nationally and internationally renowned for his work, exhibiting in Tokyo, Sydney, New York, London, Hong Kong and Dubai, as well as locally.
Richard Wolfe suggests of Adams’ paintings, “if abstract art can be fitted into two general categories, depending on whether its elements are derived from either natural or entirely non-representational forms, then Adams’ work hovers somewhere in between.” While Adams initially takes his inspiration from the subtle colours, radiant horizons and fine geometry of landscapes, rather than paint these directly, he consigns them to memory, allowing them to morph gently through filters of time and feeling before emerging onto canvas or paper.
Surfaces are important and evocative in Adams’ work, inspired by the effects of nature on man-made things: rust, weathering, dirt, dust and decay. Adams’ surfaces are constructions of layer upon layer of paint, showing through like faint shadows or glimpsed through scratches and scrapes. Hamish Coney writes, “there is a softness, a sort of frescoed approach to the choice of colour and surface treatment that enable the monumental blocks of the work to relate internally with a wonderful elasticity of weight.”
“I paint when I’m not playing the jazz violin. The two go hand in hand. One sets the other on fire. When I feel good about my playing at night, the next day in my studio the painting always goes well. Painting should improve as the artist matures, just as in jazz the more you play, the more you understand the value of improvisation and a greater sense of confidence can emerge. This allows the artist to make a direct statement from within. With jazz less can be more, as in painting five strokes can say as much as five thousand.
I consider myself an abstract painter. I draw my inspiration from nature, from colours, textures, shapes, surfaces and remembering these, I can at a later date produce them with feeling on canvas.
I like my work to have a certain amount of spontaneity to it. This helps me in feeling that I am the guide of the brush rather than the master. I try not to have a pre-conception of what the picture will look like, I’ll pick a certain size of canvas, deal with the necessary materials and then let an image grow from this. Of course this also applies in playing jazz improvisation. It helps to allow the feeling of notes you imagine to pass through you rather than trying to arrange them for the listener. In that way, they can play themselves and the painting can really paint itself.”