Isms, Techniques and Materials
by William Oliver (The Art Newspaper) 2009 :
The early work of the majority of artists is not widely seen. It is produced during their artistic infancy, developed through the formal training of an academic institution. Their work is critiqued by a small group of people in similar stages of development. It is only after this, when they have achieved a level of confidence through appreciation and evaluation, that they offer up their work to be seen by the public eye.
Entirely self-taught, Adam Neate’s career almost reverses this process. From the outset a large and diverse audience has seen his work. He emerged as a street artist, his pieces seen by hundreds of people a day. With a reputation carved from that notoriety, Neate quickly earned himself many dedicated followers.
Traditionally, young artists carry out their early experimentation in the relatively obscure confines of the educational system, along with the safety net that provides.
In Neate’s case every stylistic development and evolution has been placed in the public realm in one form or another, and subsequently discussed and assessed by his audience. It is this process of constant evaluation that has informed his work.
A street artist is constantly looking to keep ahead of the game, to produce a piece of work that is better than that of his contemporaries and something that intrigues people enough to leave the work in place, or in the case of Neate’s early career ‘drops’, pick the work up and take it away. This almost basic instinct to be the best, or to be the most interesting, is innate in Neate. ‘I am very aware that you’re only as good as your last painting, so I am constantly pushing forwards. I’m interested in progression, making aesthetic leaps, evolution.’
This exhibition enables us to see clearly the development in both his work and his career. There is a definite connection between one work and the next. The Three Stages, Neate’s examination of the emotional process gone through when drinking, can be seen as the beginning of an idea that he continues to develop in his Grey Portrait. An almost freehand style, yet with an element of both cubism and surrealism. It is possible to see his starting point in one painting, the ideas he begins to work with stylistically, what he wanted to say with that particular work and then how that relates to the next.
‘My way of working is a linear movement, a progression. That’s what gives me the excitement; starting somewhere and ending up somewhere else, that creativity and that direction. For me the real excitement starts when you create a piece, and it starts like a blob of energy that pushes you to come up with ideas and all of a sudden you move onto something else that can become your next style and you make a jump, a leap. If you hadn’t made that one work it might have taken you ten years to get to this point, but that one work leads you so directly that you feel like you can’t physically stop the process.’
These paintings are the culmination of skills learnt through many year’s work and in that sense, can be seen as his coming of age. ‘I have spent a long time building up to point, learning different techniques in a lot of different places. I have been in the studio for the last year, constantly experimenting and developing and have put as much of what I have learnt, as I can, into practice’.
This is his second solo gallery show, following on from his ‘Paintings, Pots and Prints’ exhibition in 2007 and Neate has used all of his drive and ambition to push his work forwards into new territory. He has added ideas that were previously unseen in his paintings and he has striven, and succeeded, in creating work that is as much about the content as it is about the aesthetic.
This is perhaps a key differential between what we see on the street, in an urban environment, and what is traditionally shown in a gallery space. He has drawn from his own private life and what he sees on a daily basis and incorporated those ideas, to create work that talks directly to the viewer on a level that is honest.
‘I would rather paint an emotion or an experience so that I don’t get bored. It’s like exorcising a demon. I want to paint something that I can finish and see through to the end – to paint something that I have experienced and in a way, pass that experience on. For me the integrity lies in making something entirely your own, from your own experience’.
An artist’s transition into a gallery is never going to be an easy one. It needs a great deal of consideration and comes with many pitfalls. As well as your own integrity and language you also need to consider your audience. To create a coherent exhibition, an artist needs to understand what he has done before and at the same time look to where he wants to end up – what the future of his work means. Neate is aware of this development in his work and excited by it. ‘This body of work has changed so much from when I began; I have a whole new direction with it,’ he says. ‘For me it has become a new way of thinking and learning. In some ways I feel like I have pushed it so far in that space of time that people who know my work might not recognise it. There are signs in there, bits of my language that have continued, but ultimately this exhibition demonstrates that I have tried to go one step further.’
And he is right. With this body of work, the stylistic leaps that Neate has achieved are demonstrated in a clear and concise way, and while it leaves behind his work as a street artist, it does not disinherit it completely. His voice is still there, he is still Adam Neate, but he has developed to the point where it is time to look at his work on a new level. His work takes into consideration all of the styles he has examined during his self-education, and references them in a way that is completely honest.
‘This show is a mixture of languages, isms, techniques and materials. These works are a collaboration of all the styles and techniques I have used over the years. I’m a believer in not being precious about what you do and moving on to something new if it feels like the right thing. If it is a positive move then I am happy about it.’
This exhibition not only presents the viewer with the most recent stages in Neate’s progress of stylistic and ideological development, it also fulfils his aim to give the audience some-thing to think about and to carry on thinking about, after they leave the paintings themselves.
“Neate has moved on from his past respectfully and developed his content and his style into something that sets him apart. He has had the courage to follow his truths and make his own way, and make it in a way that projects himself onto a new, aesthetically and stylistically rich plane, that looks both to his past and his future.”
First published by Elms Lesters in the book ADAM NEATE : A NEW UNDERSTANDING, 2009