Rob Adams a Painter's Blog painter's progress

July 28, 2016

Mad with the Power

Filed under: Art History,Philosophy,Satire — Tags: , , — Rob Adams @ 11:05 am

I am officially qualified to make art. Yes I mean it, I have a bit of paper, which only I and the person who shoved it in an envelope has ever seen, that says Robert Adams, Ba Hons Sculp (3rd class). Which is as near, I might add, as it is possible to get on a Fine Art course to failing, but none the less it confirms I have the power. I can look, or even if I am bold intervene on an object, and with a wave make it art. Move it from the category of the mundane to an elevated existence. Ok, Ok waving is probably a bit too Harry Potter with an Art Wand… maybe just pin an A4 sheet of impenetrable art-speak next to it… Now people will look at this thing differently, they will stroke their chins and ponder, they will feel the need to say that I explore the boundaries of the mundane and the elevated, with a bit of luck they might even pay me so they can stroke their chins at home and impress their friends with their avant-garde taste in art.

Great power, as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben once said, comes with great responsibility. I could theoretically pin a bit of paper on the Child Okeford village noticeboard declaring the whole village art, or even the whole of Dorset, drunk with power I could claim the entire universe as my creation and artify the whole shebang! Tricky to exhibit I suppose, just an A4 in an empty gallery declaring my act of will would do it though. Ah yes I can see it, a pure white cube of empty space with a single sheet of paper on one of the pristine walls. The Turner prize would be a shoe in, Kirsty Wark would interview me in that humble mortal talking to a high priest manner she has, hanging on my every statement concerning my realms of concern and posing deferential enquires as to how I became such a genius.

But maybe best not, how will everyone feel to be just the raw materials for my art? What if someone objects to being merely the paint on my conceptual brush? I could of course put my bit of paper in a locked box and declare that within it lay the greatest creative statement ever. Hmm that might be enough for the prize in itself! Me not saying what it is would become part of the work and no one would need to know that I had artified them and the entire multiverse without  asking first.

Other artists might be a problem too, their art would just become a footnote to my far larger conceptual reach. Artists are an egotistical lot they are bound to object. By signing and dating the entire universe I have made their work mine which could cause me to be accused of plagiarism… The other worry is that they have the power too. I would worry that they might de-artify my masterpiece. Very tricky, can an artist take back the fairy dust of artification? Is artifying a one way street? I don’t see why it should be, if I scrape off a painting it is very much de-arted, so what is possible in the practical world should be possible in the conceptual, easier too…

Lets try it there is nothing like experimental evidence. Here is my breakfast in a mundane state.



now below here it is “Artified”



Pretty impressive, the difference is striking it now says so much more, it comments on society and how we always seem to fall short of our dietary ambitions. How the  paradigm of the dialectical forces inherent in the working classes express themselves in a glorious hymn to cholesterol. Now the acid test the de-artified version:



Well that pretty much proves it, the breakfast is just breakfast again with no subtext.

This is going to cause a storm in the art world I fear. What if Anthony Gormley de-artifies one of my paintings? Do I retaliate in kind and de-art the Angel of the North? I can envisage two artists duelling each arting and de-arting objects by pinning A4 conceptual declarations in turn. Some miscreant could pin an A4 sheet saying “This is not an Oak Tree” next to Michael Craig Martin’s seminal work. What if someone de-arts the Sistine Chapel? Would the people stop going? The Pope would have to get Damien Hurst in to re-art it or the Vatican would be very much out of pocket.

I am now worrying as to whether I should post this. By clicking “post” I am changing the whole fabric of Western Art entirely. No one will ever look at art the same way again. Perhaps best not, the disruption would set artist against artist, a civil war in the art world. Tracy Emin might get blackmailed by a rogue artist threatening to de-art her bed. The foundations of the art world would be shaken and undermined. More to the point auction prices could plummet, no collector would ever feel secure knowing that their collection of shiny Jeff Koons doggies might be mundanified at any moment by a dissident artist… Then again there is always the chance that I might get that Kirsty Wark interview and be on the telly…



August 14, 2014


Filed under: Art History,Drawing,Painting,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Rob Adams @ 4:29 pm

Yes a new “ism” I had thought there must have been a movement in art history that had laid claim to the term, but it seems not. Well now it’s mine! I thought of it when I was trying to find a term for what I was doing. In simple terms I am translating what I see on to a flat surface using paint or other media. The key to this is in the “translation” word. I am not copying, I am finding equivalents.

So some definitions, being an Observationalist means you are empirical taking your cues from the world, responding to the experiences of the world that your senses bring you. You are neither trying to add a subtext from elsewhere nor trying to exclude all your individual nature. You are rendering how you personally see it, filtered through the constraints of ability and medium. I am trying to make an object that is eloquent in presenting how I saw a time and place, but not an unbiased representational record.

Realism, has aspects of Observationalism but tries to exclude style and idealisation. When you re-arrange a landscape to improve the composition or adjust the tones to create a focus then you are idealising. If you make all your trees like Claude Lorraine then you are inventing or fantasising, which is different. Style comes in two flavours, the part that results from the manner in which you carry out the act of painting and the other variety that is adopting the style of another. An Observationalist should embrace the former, but the latter should only be influence not aping. There is a difference between being influenced by Wesson and “Painting the Wesson Way”. If you are an Observationalist you are painting your own way based upon personal practical experience, which includes influences from looking at the work of others.

There can be a degree of abstraction but abstraction is not the point. There can be a degree of impressionism but impressionism is a method not an ambition. There can be an element of photographic realism, we are so influenced by the photographic image that some influence is inevitable. So we might shift the tones of our painting towards how a camera might see a scene but not try to make an image that could be confused with a mechanically produced image. If painting from the figure there can be character and activity but not story telling. So a few people sitting at a table would be fine but to have them arranged to make some moral point would not. I will add some images to make the finer distinctions clear as words are not adequate.

Some of the ideas from this screed came when a few days ago I was working upon a studio picture. It consists of a London scene with quite a few cyclists passing by. It came about when I was photographing a scene that I thought had potential for a painting when a stream of bicycles passed by. Thinking that they looked wonderful I took a whole sequence of pictures and the studio picture will contain various cyclists arrange to form a composition. The final image should look completely naturalistic. To my mind this will fit into my new “Ism” if I added a chimpanzee riding one of the bicycles it would not. I had experienced the cyclists but not the chimp!

To refine the thinking a little further. Suppose I am painting a landscape. The composition would be improved with a tree holding up one side of the composition. This would fit our new school to my mind. If however I had  a rather dull landscape and invented a dramatic tree to be the centre of interest then it might not. I could paint a dramatic tree but find it’s location a disappointment. I might then walk a few yards further on and see a setting that was perfect, stop and paint in a new background. This would be fine as both elements are observed. What I am saying is that a picture may be a mixture of observed elements, indeed some such as figures might be made up using the experience of previous observations. However if I made a portmanteaux image of observed elements on one canvas then there would no longer be a single plausible view point and the viewer could no longer put themselves behind the eyes of the painter.

To dice it finer still painting a crashed car would be on message. Painting the crash in action with one car in mid air less so. Just to make my own life difficult, how about if I welded up a support to hold a car in a dramatic in the air position and then sat and painted it? To my mind not as you would be adding a narrative that was the real subject of the painting not the object itself. However this is art, and we cannot draw hard and fast lines. I am not trying to be prescriptive. There would inevitably paintings that had a degree of observational content but had some other raison d’être. An example of this would be an allegorical scene produced using studies from life. I would feel the studies themselves would fall into the Observational net, but the final painting not, as it is about the Allegory not the observed parts.

So, are you an Observationalist?

Steve Mumford, iraq,drawing

This drawing is by Steve Mumford done in Iraq. To my mind purely observational even though there are current political overtones the drawing has no agenda. Click on the picture to see more of his work.


gassed sketch, singer sergeant

This sketch for Gassed by John Singer Sargent is also observational, but posed for a narrative purpose so one step away from pure observationalism.


Gassed, Singer Sargent

The final picture is a further step away, here observation is a tool at the service of the narrative.


Paul Nash

Lastly a painting by Paul Nash. Here the observational content is even less, the narrative and abstract qualities dominate.


So there we are I have created a new school. Unlike most new art “isms” it already has members… Rembrandt with his portraits, Monet with his landscapes, Turner in his sketches, Degas with his laundry women, even perhaps our cave man drawing a bison. It is good to feel the weight of history on your side!


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