Interview with Award Winning Artist JJ Adams
PUBLISHED: 10:21 21 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:42 21 August 2014
JJ Adams’ stunning and controversial work has won him cult status in the art world and this month he’s in the North West.
JJ Adams is a traditional and digital artist. The son of a Baptist preacher he was born in Plymouth then moved to Manchester with his family before emigrating to South Africa when he was six. His work can be seen this month at two exciting exhibitions in Manchester and Congleton.
You’re in the middle of launching your spring ‘collection’ is this a fashion thing?
It’s a collection of quite a few new pieces and many of them differ hugely in subject matter, If fashion is something to dress yourself up in and look good in, then my artwork is something to dress your home or office up in. Something different to admire and think about. It’s a collection of something new, and that’s what I feel spring is all about.
Can you just tell us in your own words about your art? How did your style evolve?
It evolved quite naturally and fluidly, it started when I was young, always drawing or tracing and painting but as I got older I started to realise I preferred a more modern graphic design style, thick simple lines, bright colours, stencilling, photography, screen printing etc. I went to art college to study graphic design while I was doing a lot of drawing for a tattoo studio while also watching another artist I grew up around who used very bold bright colours. I suppose all of it merged into what I do now. I am not scared to admit I’ll use digital techniques or spray paint or stencilling, whatever it takes to create an idea I have going around in my head. What I suppose really kick-started my art career most recently was a graphic design position interview for Superdry Clothing. I had been asked by them to create a new idea for a possible clothing line, and it was my t-shirt designs I came up with that really made me start to think that maybe I should really start to push my creations as an art form and not focus them on advertising or design work. I had been doing Graphic Design and Sign making full time before I decided to transfer my ideas into a frame or onto canvas.
What did you feel when you finally decided to become an artist?
If I am completely honest, the minute my first piece of work sold, I could not believe it and I knew I had found an outlet for my creativity that I would enjoy, but being an artist was something I never thought I would be called. As for feelings, I would have to say doubt, uncertainty, freedom and many other feelings, I still doubt myself as an artist, it’s such a broad term. I have always admired artists and anyone who can truly express themselves without thinking too much about it. I still think to myself that an artist is someone who paints using an easel with oils, acrylic or watercolours or sculpts from clay and although that is very true, there are so many different types of artistic expression so who is to say what or who an artist really is. I guess it keeps me on my toes. I don’t think I’ll ever really consider myself an artist. I use quite a few different techniques but I always doubt myself and my work. I still have those feelings, each day is a new challenge and I am always trying to think outside the box but I rarely introduce myself as an artist, someone else always does it first and then I have to explain in detail how I create what I do and that it isn’t just necessarily painting with an easel.
How do you choose your ‘famous’ subjects? Are they people you admire or for their iconic status?
I choose my subjects based on what they have achieved or their iconic status, but most importantly if they have influenced me or not and whether I grew up liking them or their films or music or what they have said at one point or done. I like to research them in depth and read all about them until I feel I know them inside out.
You are exhibiting in Cheshire? How did that relationship happen? I am assuming you have a following here as I have seen your art in people’s houses when I have gone to do interiors stories.
The relationship with Cheshire was thanks to Cloud Gallery Fine Art and also last year’s very successful Buy Art Fair in Manchester, where some of my work was displayed and also purchased by quite a few people including Shaun Ryder and also Mikey North of Coronation Street fame. Serenity Designs in Congleton also stock some of my work and I think my work lends itself to some Interior Designers looking for something a little different. If you haven’t visited Serenity Designs in Congleton, it’s a must.
I see you had a night in Chester’s Cloud Gallery, was that fun?
It was great fun, It’s a great gallery, we had the Lord and Lady Mayoress attend as well as Ian “H” Watkins from Steps plus many more interesting people, it was a great night and I had a chance to speak to some great people. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I did some live screen printing on the night and there was some live acoustic music. I loved the atmosphere in Chester, beautiful architecture, a truly stunning place, I’ll definitely be back.
Are you looking forward to the openings in Manchester and Congleton? Are they more like events?
I am looking forward to them, both will be quite different as they are two completely different types of galleries but I am sure they will be great events, it’s going to be something not to be missed. The exhibition in Congleton will be very different as it is being held in a trendy wine bar called Quigly’s. It’s an evening event and everyone is welcome from 6pm – 9pm on Monday April 7th. All of my new collection will be on display, along with some exciting bespoke pieces and original works. The Manchester show is being held at the fabulous Generation Gallery in New York Street, again from 6pm-9pm on Thursday April 3rd.
Do you visit anywhere else while you are in the north? Clubs/bars/restaurants? Friends?
I hadn’t been back to the area for many years, although I had travelled up to Yorkshire to trace my family history and roots a few years back and passed through but I am sure I’ll be back to visit Cheshire, I saw some great bars and shops I’d like to visit and I’d also like to stay in touch with some of my collectors. There is a strong pull towards Cheshire for me.
What do you want people to get out of your art?
Enjoyment, I’d like my artwork to make them think a little differently, but most of all I like to grab someone’s attention and have them look at something that at first doesn’t seem quite right, If it can keep their attention for more than a few seconds I am happy, it’s very hard to do that in this mad television and digital age.
Who are your influences?
My biggest artistic influence is South African artist Derrric van Rensburg who taught me a lot about art growing up, his son and I were best friends and spent a lot of time in his studio. As for my other influences, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Storm Thorgerson of Pink Floyd album cover fame are a few, but I have so many.
You seem to have had a very interesting life, do you think you’d have ended up as an artist if you’d stayed in the north of England?
I would like to think so, my creativity has always been in the foreground, I have a drawing I did at Oswald Road School in Manchester at age four of a Volkswagen which looks more like a Hedgehog and I think it was showing through then, I think no matter where I lived it would have happened, I can’t seem to help it. If I am not creating something, I ‘ll drive myself crazy. I left Manchester when I was five, my father had been studying at the Baptist College and we were living in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, I hadn’t been back until last year for the Buy Art Fair and it was strange, but it still feels like home.
If possible I would also like to say a big thank you to the team at Wishbone Publishing that represent me and publish my works. They have been tremendous in helping me get to where I am today and their hard work has given me the platform to be as successful as possible.
Thanks for your questions and I hope to see you at one of our events J
3rd April – Generation Gallery in Manchester 6-9pm.
7th April – Serenity Designs, Congleton, Cheshire 6-9pm.