Adam Baker was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2019. His work ‘Summer Ready’, depicted three men posed in some opinion dividing swimwear. The pink background, heavily painted impasto black tree and the intentionally ambiguous facial expressions create a strange, colourful painting with a sense of tension. This interview presents more work by Adam Baker with insight into his working methods.
Lisa: How important is ambiguity in your work?
Adam: I like to keep my paintings ambiguous enough for people to have varying interpretations, allowing the viewer to come up with their own conclusions.
I find these interpretations often reflect the viewer’s own identity; certain signifiers read differently to different people.
I find if I over-stress a detail in a painting, or make the narrative too obvious, opportunity for interpretation is lost. This is sometimes a great indication as to when to stop a painting, knock back that detail and call it a day.
Lisa: You mention on your website that you work explores Queer themes, while shying away from outwardly political Queer statements. Can you tell us more about this? Are your paintings a place to reflect on what you have seen and experienced?
Adam: Identifying as Queer myself, queerness naturally seeps into my work as an integral part of my expression, without it being an intentionally political statement. My own political beliefs are not explicitly represented in my pieces.
My paintings are very much informed by my past experiences. Sometimes painting will bring up past trauma, which I then add into the narrative of the image and the faces of the figures.
Lisa: Can you tell me about your use of colour; is colour selection an intuitive exercise or do you pre-select colours for paintings?
Adam: I love colour. I was once sceptical my use of colour was in bad taste, but now I have embraced the camp, clashing and beautifully garish effect my use of colour creates.
Sometimes I have a colour palette in mind, inspired by random sources. I’ll experiment in smaller sketches and preparatory pieces.
I might have two main colours and I’ll add signature colours as accents to balance the piece. Placement of colour is so important to me in the reading of the painting.
Lisa: Could you name one object that is essential to your artistic practice and why?
Adam: A paint brush. It’s hard to pick one, but the paint brush is the tool that becomes an extension of myself allowing me to pass on information to the canvas.
Lisa: I find your depiction of faces fascinating. I feel they are hard to connect with, obscured somehow, like a faded photograph. And the brush marks have such energy. Are faces something you particularly love to paint?
Adam: I like a face that invokes discomfort and provokes thought. I avoid recreating the faces as they are in the source image, rather interpret with my own purpose. I adore painting faces especially with multiple figures because a change in facial expression can completely alter the narrative and the entire meaning of the painting. Depiction of facial expression in painting is a powerful tool.
Lisa: Can you describe a typical day in the studio?
Adam: A typical day in the studio fluctuates between periods of hyper concentration and practical productivity to periods of lying around on the floor thinking, criticising, questioning and planning.
Lisa: What are you working on at the moment?
Adam: At the moment I’m working on more large-scale paintings based on old war photos and some from imagination. Also exploring sculpture.
Lisa: Do you have any ‘art-hacks’ that you’re happy to share with us?
Adam: Yes I think the best way to maximise productivity is to have as much to hand as possible. I recently achieved this by attaching heavy-duty wheels onto a glass top desk, adding shelves, storage and brush holder. Transforming the old desk into a large portable glass pallet trolley thingy, it has been a game changer.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we see more of your work?
Header Image: ‘Players’ by Adam Baker oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 120cm x 150cm, 2018