• Stream of Consciousness

    Interview with Adam Alessi

This interview delves into the artist’s journey, exploring the roots of their connection to art and its evolution. He shares insights into the dynamic creative process, discussing the shift from rapid, confrontational paintings to more intricate, time-intensive works. We also delve into the stream of consciousness nature of their aesthetic, emphasising feelings over planned structures. An intriguing discussion provides a captivating glimpse into the artist’s subconscious and the evolution of their distinctive style.

When did you realise that art was essential in your life? Was it a gradual approach, or was there something specific that pushed you towards it?

I think art has always been important to me. When I was young I grew up skateboarding and there seemed to be a huge sense of individuality in that. I stuck to it as a way of self expression and falling deeper into that led me into interest in making art. Skate culture at the time was rich with music and generally just led youth into interests outside of their natural circles. When I was a teenager my mom brought me to LACMA and MOCA which led me to finding out about a lot of LA art and exposed me definitely to something I never would have seen had I not been taken there frequently. I also think going to New York a lot when I was 19/20 quickly introduced me to a load of European art that I had no previous knowledge of.

Tell us about your creative process. How much time do you usually take to complete an art piece, and how do you feel when your vision comes to life on canvas?

When I did my first solo show, which was at smart object, I was making a painting in a day. And I think for those paintings it was essential due to trying to capture an image that felt like a frozen image in time rather than something that has more subtly. Those images were direct and confrontational. They told you to look at them. The paintings I’ve been making in the last few years definitely encapsulate similar aesthetics and
Emotion but done through different processes. I spend a few weeks on each painting. It’s pretty rare to spend less than 2 weeks on something. I have been working on square abstractions lately that I only work on during the hours when natural light is available and taking about 2-3 months per painting usually adding something to it each day or every other day.

Your aesthetic seems to evoke techniques and eras of the past, but in terms of themes it communicates contemporary and timeless feelings. Are there specific messages you intend to express, or is it pure stream of consciousness?

It’s pretty stream of consciousness. That first show was really about the subconscious and being left to deal with your self. It happened to coincide with Covid and which maybe changed or perpetuated the context but the goal was to make paintings about feelings of fear, self haunting, etc. since then I’ve been making work that is really free and have the hand take over. I’ll make gestures that follow guidelines but I’ll see something in those gestures which change the course of the painting and lead me to new images. I think my style changes a lot or is looser than it used to be but it’s not planned, it’s all just feeling.

Your works resemble dreamlike visions; has the theme of dreams and nightmares always been part of you or are there specific elements (artists, scientists, films) that inspire you?

I’ve always been inspired by Los Angeles artists. Mike Kelley was obviously a huge influence. That whole school of artists brought a more confrontational approach to making art about the psyche.

I didn’t go to school so I was constantly looking at any book or paper I could get my hands on. Film and photography were always majorly important to me in the beginning. In fact I probably at one point thought I’d be a photographer but found painting and became obsessed with the ease of image creation. I found it more self reliant.  When I was younger a friends mom worked at the Getty and they had a massive Ensor retrospective. I think that moment made me realise that you can really do a lot with painting. He was unbelievable at translating photographs into these images that felt of another land or time.

About the subjects of your paintings. Have these enigmatic and triggering characters always been your main expression? Do you remember the first time you painted them?

I was painting a lot of found images when I was early on into paintings. I think I always leaned towards trying to bring an aura out of something familiar. I think just through painting like that for a few years it brought me to see that aura naturally without appropriation of an image. I started to draw more, make collage, anything I could do to create composition. That led to me building these figures of multiple images to make something new which is why I think early on the paintings felt familiar to a lot of people but also something they can’t place.

What will be your next project? Do you already have ideas or themes in mind that you would like to focus on?

I’m focused on a lot at the moment. I just spent the last 6 weeks in Japan working on ceramics next to a few really inspiring artists. Masaomi Yasunaga led me through a process of making clay from scratch and showing me some traditional methods of ceramic making in Iga. I’m now home, left with this feeling of ambition, but also desire to keep a ceramic making practice local to Japan since doing that here doesn’t seem to be a possibility. The magic isn’t here like it is there. While I was there working I was finding incredible textiles and materials for making some really fun dolls. They are a mix of natural materials, textile, drawing, painting, ceramic, and eventually photography.
As I had already mentioned I am also working on these square abstractions which were started as a mental byproduct of the paintings of my last show at Clearing. I used a lot of new colors to make those paintings and to understand their functionality I made these grids. Through repeating that process I started to incorporate them into the figures and now after a lot more experimentation I am finding a lot of pleasure in hyper focusing on them as a body of work. They are these grids that change depending on where the lights coming from, the type of light source, where you are as a viewer in relation to the work. They feel alive and honestly not much different than the feeling of confrontation that a painting like Boo! (2020) can give you.

Adam Alessi / Stream of Consciousness

Credits:

Artist: Adam Alessi / @adam_alessi
Interview: Annalisa Fabbrucci / @annalisa_fabbrucci
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko

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