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19-Jul-2017

We caught up with Adam Dix in his East London studio for this extra special Q & A, delving into his practice...

- How were you introduced to Jealous Print Studio?

My first encounter with Jealous was with Adam Bridgland. I was completing my MA at Wimbledon School of Art and he put my degree work forward for the Jealous Prize. It was the inaugural year for the prize and I was invited to print at the gallery’s base in Crouch End, which had an incredible energy.

 

- You work with flat layers of paint, which create ghostly whispers of silhouettes, tell us more about your techniques and why you use them?
 
The technique came about whilst in my final year of college, I wanted to discuss our past and present forms of communication and social networks. The paintings themselves are painted on the flat using a combination of ink and oil glazes. The inks are there to create sharp contrast between light and dark whilst the glazes are built up methodically from the lightest to the most vivid. In other words, I am using a watercolour technique but in oil which means that you have to be pretty certain of the colour you are laying down as you can’t wipe back (as in traditional oil painting) otherwise you would take off the preceding layers of glaze. A bit like painting without a safety net. Over the last couple of years I have started to incorporate fluorescent pigment in designated areas of the painting before glazing, subsequently allowing for certain areas of the painting to visually pop.
Although most of my paintings can have up to 30 layers of thinly applied oil glazes, the physical depth of the painted surface is shallow. This is quite intentional as I am interested in creating a visual depth of image through the economy of mark and structure of paint. For me the process and sheen of the glazes act as a visual metaphor referencing the physical depth of the digital screen, whilst referencing past modes of communication either through colour palette, dress or subject depicted.

 

- Your work references a time past and their interaction with technology, tell us more about your interest in this and the references to the 1950s in particular?

 

The 1950’s and onwards were a time of hegemony between the USA and USSR, the Cold War, the Space Race, the growth of Sci-Fi as a contemporary folklore that depicted a social psyche and advancement in telecommunications.
It was a time of optimism and imagined futures of the 21st Century and it is this you can see represented in the printed technicolor ephemera and hyper real colour of the time. Printed ephemera was the mass media of the time promoting the new science technology, composed and constructed for the populous. Computers that once filled an entire room were now being reduced in size to fit space rockets, satellite triangulation and navigation was in its infancy bouncing images and information across the world along with the aid of television advertising. The advances in these areas were a spike in history that has a recurring residue in the design and commercial devices of communication today.
So the idea was to look at the characteristics found in reproduction processes such as lithographic print, and utilise those nuances subliminally through colour and technique. This reference the spike in history alluding to these past references and influence whilst the ‘image’ itself referred to a contemporary mode of communicating.
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  • Faith and community seem to play an important part of your subject matter- why?
  •  

Traditionally these are areas that bring people together and are forms of early social networking. Socially we rely on community, constructing solidarity through common gestures of unification.

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the phrase ‘Collective Conscious’ when describing traditional societies, such as family, clan or tribal, where a totemic religion played an important role in unifying members.By sharing in a traditional uniform action within society you create a mechanical or choreographed solidarity, with a totality of belief and sentiment that is familiar to a single member, but shared to form a determinate system; collective or common consciousness.

Modern societies tools and methods may have changed, but symbolically they seek the same connectivity and promote a sense of belonging or place. A unifying experience, albeit through the spectacle of a screen. Spectacle has always been a part of mass group activity (think of church stain glass windows). As well as the audience being physically present there would be symbolic gestures in order to give coherence and sense of meaning and control to the shared experience. The difference today is the ‘interface’ to enable this has radically changed, allowing the individual or individuals to socially engage without physical contact; a social spectacle instantaneously through our screens, homogenised and alone together.

  • You source and collect images/information such as old photographs and news articles of similar subjects to that displayed in your work, how do they influence your subject matter?
  •  

That’s correct, I have a large catalogue of old printed ephemera from the 1950’s onwards. I think it’s fair to say, it is the lithographic print quality that has influenced my colour palette when I make work. I tend to look at the structure of the subjects depicted; how the image is formed and where the photograph has a soft quality in conjunction with the pastel colors, dense blacks and strident reds.

I have in my studio a mood wall where I display an array of images that interest me, a pictorial diagram where one image starts to visually have a dialogue with another. This continually changes and grows depending on the project I have set myself.

  • Do you find the advancement of technology worrying, or do you celebrate it?
  •  

There is always advancement in technology, but it is more about how it filters down into mainstream society and becomes part of daily routine. What bothers me is a continual visual distraction of infotainment, a digital feed that interrupts and promotes an illusion of the world, where the analogue version is compromised, edited and becomes the norm; stoking the social anxiety to stay connected.

  • The colours in your works are quite complex due to their painterly style, what attracted you to screenprinting over digital printing?
  •  

I know exactly what attracted me, and that was the skill and subtle nuances that can be achieved through screenprinting.

In the past with Jealous, this has led us to create prints where the layers of ink have gone into double figures to achieve the right finish. For me creating a print this way, with the partnership of someone more technically adept than myself is a great exchange, a discussion in the application and subtraction of colour within the printed image. Unlike digital prints you can see a physical construction of colour within the finished article, how one colour sits in conjunction with another or overlays the colour below. It’s an analogue process that has a record of time in its structure, not unlike painting.


 


 

 


 


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