About the Artist
Harry Adams is the name of the artistic partnership between Steven Lowe and Adam Wood. Although the two artists have collaborated together closely since meeting at art school in 1988, where they studied painting, they only chose the presentational construct of Harry Adams in 2008. Despite their training as painters, their early collaborative projects were loud musical ones, since when they have engaged in many diverse activities including painting, drawing, film, performance, printmaking, photography, digital montage and poster design (especially the Art Hate project, in collaboration with Billy Childish), artists’ books, publishing (poetry, novels, polemics), web projects, running galleries and curating. Their most notable musical project was STOT21stCplanB whose accompanying videos and other related artworks reveal a strong visual sensibility. It is a long, hardworking partnership.
In recent years, the focus of their activity has been the L-13 Light Industrial Workshop. This is a gallery and workshop premises set up by Steven Lowe that provides a vehicle not only for Harry Adams but also for other artists, such as James Cauty, Jamie Reid and, especially, Billy Childish. Many of the L-13 artists are successful musicians, experienced in the shared process of playing music, and L-13’s ethos has been described as that of gallery and artist working together in the way a band might. A more plausible but uncontained definition might describe L-13 and its artists as having co-operatively created an ahistorical severance from usual art world values of success and failure, especially in relation to authorial identity, often through calculated assertions towards, or appropriations of, various kinds of social or cultural authority, all effected through a vast imaginative enterprise and resulting in a potent intensity of meanings.
These assertions and appropriations, being brought to a great temperature in the furnace of the L-13 imagination, have sometimes generated incandescent light and sometimes the fiery conflagrations burn marks of destruction. Many shows, publications, events and performances have been made working in this way, the results of which will undoubtedly confuse future cataloguers and commentators hoping to make forensic sense of them – especially, perhaps, because of their often mysteriously unresolved endings. This interest in the nature of creation and creativity’s relationship with the energies of destruction, and in both, resolute and irresolute endings has been a shared constant at L-13 and is now also seen in the paintings of Harry Adams.
As committed collaborators at art college, Steve Lowe and Adam Wood had wanted to be assessed for their degrees on the basis of a joint show, a performance they had both devised. But they were not allowed to do this and had to give two separate performances, under their own individual names, for separate assessment. Although the performances were effectively the same, one artist was passed, the other was failed. This occasion was an important moment for them, making ideas of success and failure seem redundant, and has since played a defining role in their outlook. It has led to an indifference to – or defiance of – the received ideas that seek to determine whether an artist is doing well or badly – a position that is consistent with their theme of creative non-finality as opposed to a career identity.
Ideas of creation and destruction are central to the paintings with whose themes we are familiar from our experience of the heavens and the utopias, the hells and apocalypses, of mythico-religious art from all times and all places. Within Harry Adams’s paintings, there is belief and disbelief, beauty and ugliness, order and disorder, dirt and cleanliness, ecstasy and dysphoria. He summons and combines these polarities as dualities or paradoxes of discord and unity and then evades tidy meanings, or deliberately misplaces conclusion. Saints are made grubby and grubby things are made beautiful, and ideals of love and beauty and holiness are recombined. He disrupts the perfectionism or absolutism of paintings by other artists while ensuring that his interpretations are also homages to that absolutism or perfectionism. Huge architectural monoliths are depicted whose important survival or cultural functions, as repositories, have their already complex meanings disrupted in further ambiguities of moral scale.
It is, in many ways, a romantic project, which honours the creative spirit of the painter as having, like the poet, a special closeness to an ecstatic knowledge. It is an ecstasy that can be, and is, even amongst all the horror and filth and stupidity.
Poppy 60/100 1973
Medium is: Original Oil,
Charcoal and Beeswax on Cotton Covered Board
Size Unframed: 255mm x 36mm
Man Leaving the Ice Field ed 16/31 2015
Medium is: Monoprint and Oil Disperse
on Beeswax Encaustic and Cotton Covered Board
Size Unframed: 500mm x 360mm