The elemental work of Adam Taylor
I don’t know how they do it, but Llandudno’s Ffin y Parc gallery never ceases to amaze me with their ever-growing roster of emerging and arresting artists from Wales.
It’s quite simply one of the most exciting galleries in the entirety of the UK, and owners Ralph Sanders and Roland Powell could never be accused of not having their finger on the pulse of Wales’ exciting art world.
One of Ffin y Parc’s artists in particular, Adam Taylor, stops me in my tracks each and every time I gaze at his work – and believe me that’s often.
Adam’s talent was recognised when he won the Ffin y Parc Prize late in 2021 but I first spotted his work at Studio Cennen, one of his first champions, earlier that year.
To me, and to his 78,000 followers on Instagram, he is without doubt one of the most important artists working in Wales today.
Adam is an alchemist. A poet. At turns, his work suggests the Pembrokeshire landscapes and seascapes that inspire him or completely hides and withholds all meaning and influence.
There is no mistaking his utterly brilliant work and his vivid use of colour; winter fields; fog. The bare open sea. A gate.
A truly Welsh melancholy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Adam is a busy man, but made time for a quick chat with Nation.Cymru before his next exhibition – one of his largest yet – which takes place in Mallorca this spring.
What kind of works do you create?
“My paintings are abstract and are mostly depictions of my surroundings. I work on panels using oil paint, bitumen, spray cans and oil sticks.
“I like my work to have an aged look, a sort of decay. I find thinned down bitumen (the stuff you waterproof felt roofs with) rubbed on to dried layers of paint gives such a warmth.
“When bitumen is used neat, the dark tone is so much warmer than any oil colour you can buy from the shops.
“I always try and pare down my paintings to their simplest form. I like the idea of producing an almost dreamlike landscape.”
Where do you find your inspiration?
“I worked for a foraging company when I first moved to Pembrokeshire, collecting sea weeds and plants.
“I had to spend hours on the beach and in forests in all kinds of weather. I still spend a lot of time outdoors.
“I never go into a painting with an idea of how it will turn out. I just start painting and I see what happens. Most of the time, when I plan a painting with an image in mind, it usually ends up in the scrap pile.”
How does the landscape you live in affect your work?
“Although my work is abstract and without an obvious subject it’s still based on the landscape I live in (Pembrokeshire).
“While working for the foraging company that supplies wild food to the restaurant trade, I would spend hours on the local beaches collecting rock samphire and sea weeds and the vastness and desolation definitely crept into my work.
“There’s a certain peace out there in the rock pools and shoreline that hopefully comes across in my work.”
You started out in music – how did you shift into painting?
“I formed a band called the Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club with some friends whilst we were at Art School in Cardiff. We got a record deal and toured all over including the USA and Europe.
“In 2012, we recorded an album with the drummer from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds but unfortunately things didn’t work out and we all went our separate ways soon after that.
“I then relocated to Tenby, Pembrokeshire and got right back into painting. I felt quite lost at the time, it was a real lifeline. I began painting around my day job and everything started very slowly. It wasn’t until lockdown when I had the freedom to paint full time – from there things moved quite quickly.”
Your work has evolved a lot over the past few years but you also return to a few key themes, tell us more about these.
“I started out at Art School doing still life paintings but when I moved to the coast I began painting the vast landscape around me.
“The minimalism started to creep into my work and the paintings naturally started becoming more abstract almost of their own accord. As ridiculous as it seems, it was difficult at first abandoning subject based paintings and going purely abstract.
“I started using a blue/green background and a grid layout – this feels like a safety net in terms of composition. I veer away from this colour combination on occasion but I always seem to come back to it!”
Your work ranges from postcard sized to larger pieces, as seen in your upcoming show at Mallorca – do you have a preference?
That’s a interesting one. I’ll paint on a larger panel and I think that’s probably my comfort zone – but then I do a series of smaller paintings and really enjoy it and often struggle when I return to large scale work.
“I definitely enjoy the control you get with smaller pieces. To me a larger piece that’s taking up space needs to justify its existence so there’s much more pressure.
“The short answer is that in all the years of painting I find both large and smaller works difficult and confounding at times.”
Tell us about some of the places where your work has been sent or is on display?
“I’ve had work sold all over the world through the galleries that represent me, which is always exciting.
“Often buyers will send me a photo of the piece in Florida or Germany, or wherever it has ended up, which I love to see. I’ve had a few celebrities buy a painting, which is fun.
Last year was a very busy one for you, but this year is set to be even busier. What’s coming up around the corner?
“I’m currently working on a solo exhibition for a gallery in Mallorca called Gallery Red opening on the 31st of May. It’s around 17 of some of the largest works I’ve done to date.I’ll be going to this, so I’m looking forward to some sun.
“In the summer I’ll have a few paintings off to a gallery in Scotland called &Gallery and then a solo show in Ffin Y Parc Gallery, Llandudno this November, so quite busy and then something in Paris early the following year.”
Passing a neighbour during a downpour a few years ago, and in spite of my own deep love of a walk in the rain with music in my ears, I pulled out the cliched “bloody weather” line just to do what everyone’s supposed to do. But she wasn’t having it.
She beamed, her arms outstretched and said: “It’s elemental.”
And that sums up Adam’s work to me. It’s elemental.
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