Is there an element of madness in you or your work?
I don’t think there’s any madness at all in my work, apart from me treating my paintings as living beings.
My work ‘This Gathering Swarm’ (below) is a literal description of facts. 50,000 honey bees came to colonise my roof. Okay, great, I thought, let them live, do my bit for life.
A couple of weeks later a massive swarm emerged, engulfing the whole neighbourhood. I thought: Oh dear, my 'inner slacker’ has caused the street to be infested with bees stinging children and old ladies. Fortunately I got hold of some apiarists to save the day, but now I miss their buzzing in my head all the time.
What are your indulgences?
Treating myself to a rare cowrie for my expanding collection and hammering hell out of some Welsh mountain.
Tell us about the awards you have won at the RWA...
First prize, excellence in watercolour award three times.
Is it right that some of your work was inspired by exhibits at the Bristol Museum?
Yes, I needed to get hold of an Ichthyosaur fast for my work ‘I Draw the Bones Closer’ (below). If you’re looking for ‘madness’, I trawl the abandoned Severn estuary looking for Jurassic bones. In my mind I wanted to communicate with my dead girlfriend and explore the madness of grief alone.
I half-whispered to myself, help me find another vertebrae, and sometimes it seemed to work. I have recently found a near complete Ichthyosaur. In making the work I purify grief. In this work, two maps of the Severn estuary are attached to both our umbilicus, and each tidal surge brings back my lost love closer to me, I pray we are reincarnated in the belly of the beast as children in some re-incarnation - this appealed to my nacient mischievousness when I showed this work in Gloucester cathedral.
There is a scientific element to your work which appears to be very accurate, do you have a science background or is it learned for your art?
In other circumstances, I would be studying zoology at university. Although I do thorough research for my work, visiting museum collections and scientific literature. I think I would have preferred to live in a time where art, science and alchemy all merged together. The Enlightenment maybe.
Why did you become an artist?
In retrospect, I think I was trying to lock disparate and contradictory thoughts together within myself and outside I wondered what would happen when I tried to integrate science, rationality and meaning through personal experience. Where else could you smash them together, literature, a narrative structure maybe?
Are there any current or dead artists that you still take inspiration from?
I don’t see myself as an artist in the modern sense. I just make stuff. I’m most informed by archaeology and natural history. The anonymous ‘artists’ I am most drawn walked this earth over 30,000 years ago. My work is more informed by to archaeology and natural history and life than the contemporary art market.
I’d be happy if you left me alone for a month in Chauvet cave with an oily ferruginous stick and working with the cave paintings... in my mind adding eight-legged mammoths.
I like making my own paint, I’ve clawed red ochre from fissures in quarries in the Forest of Dean - you develop a closer relationship to your work when you do this – it’s as if nothing had changed in 70,000 years – ban the paint tube & release the pigment.
Tell us something about you as a person that is separate from the artist, or are the two totally integrated?
I’ve noticed that I’ve been digging myself deeper into a quasi-pathological vein of geology and palaeontology.
I collect fossilised bones and minerals because they have their own truth and aesthetics, beauty devoid of the obfuscatory mud that is Institutional art-speak.
You describe your work by referring to a clash of belief systems. How is this portrayed in your paintings?
‘Other Crucifixions’ (below) examines human frailty, wanting excess pain to burn away.
In stillness the figure is lowered into the laser treatment machine, maybe descending into hell. The animals from the cave paintings and bemused hominids look on in sympathy as a 6th century chant permeates the Christ’s brain, lurking between the ears.
As a symbol of faith in evolution an archaeopteryx is nailed to the tau cross.
The fossil bird is weighing the artificial heart from the crusaders lead-lined heart box.
It is somewhat unusual to see watercolours painted with these themes and style – why did you choose the medium?
I chose Watercolour because it’s difficult & out of control , it can go very wrong.
I wanted to veil any harshness in beauty.
I see no separation between the new techniques I’ve developed and the meaning of the work. They lead and expand what’s possible, I think I’m alone in my pursuit of giant experimental watercolours.
I am fascinated by your comment about aesthetics colliding with morality – what does this mean and how does it play out in your work?
Well, aesthetics and beauty have no moral value, beauty is not truth, human body parts poetically arranged and softly described, with humour, these are all good seductive schemes (as any Bacon will illustrate). My work ‘Other Crucifixions’ touches on this obliquely. It’s like a string quartet playing Bach in a concentration camp.
Your work implies a serious and deep thinker – is that you as a person or you at work?
Kant, Nietzche & Foucualt can’t think the work out or you hold the brush!
My work is simple, I only ever wonder what every other human being or hominid has ever thought.
Review: View Gallery Exhibition, Bristol
“Possibly my favourite works on display were by Adam White. Hanging on the back wall of the main room upstairs is a large painting of what looks like a cross-between a fish and a machine. To the right of this is a photo of a still-life set up that Adam has presumably constructed, so what is interesting is that despite the paintings being very much of the surreal mode, it has in fact been painted from life!"