Exhibition: Adam Lee | World Sick Hermit
The Station Gallery 29th Jan - 26th Feb 2022
image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CaVXJp8BdFv/
I recently attended an online talk with artist Adam Lee on his recent exhibition at The Station Gallery in Melbourne . This was in conversation with Clare Needham, Curator at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Adam talked quite specifically about a couple of paintings in the show, which we were shown in a slideshow concurrently with the talk. His work is incredibly detailed, which I realised I had not realised. Initially I've been drawn to the digital images of his work on instagram because of the painting as a whole and how it operates aesthetically. I feel I needed his description of the narrative behind the work, given in this talk, to really pull me into a deeper appreciation of the painting. However I can imagine that the immersive experience of encountering his work in real life would draw me into a more careful examination of his work, where perhaps I would have discovered for myself some of these intricacies. I honestly haven't engaged with his work in this way via its digital representation on instagram though, which is the only way I have engaged with is work up until the talk. So the talk for me was an incredibly rich experience, and it felt like a generous offering, for him to share the process and narratives behind his work, but also to share himself as an artist and human, and allow us to become more cognisant of his inner world and experiences.
I was really appreciative that this opportunity to engage more deeply with the artist and the work was offered and feel that these offerings, which extend beyond the traditional model of an exhibition in a physical art gallery, is a valuable means of engaging with a wider audience. I know this experience was borne probably out of necessity for the gallery to try and engage an audience in a time of covid limitations, but beyond that need, or perhaps the motives of marketing, it delivered something of true human value: meaningful connection.
As a full time unrepresented artist, the vast majority of my work is encountered as a digital image, not as a physical object, and the majority of it is purchased without the viewer having seen it in real life. I'm greatly appreciative that my work is supported in this way because it has kept me fed and watered during what has been an incredibly difficult and restricted time for most people around the world. What disappoints me about this process is how purely transactional it can be, how art can be reduced to a product or commodity, which yes, it is, but the opportunity to utilise the art as a vehicle for the expression of ideas and meaningful connection is lost. For it is this ability to express ideas and spark a connection that I feel is what gives art its value.
Social engagement as an artist is important to me for a number of reasons. The most pragmatic being for basic marketing purposes underpinned by the need to sell my work. It's currently my sole income, so there is a necessity involved that I can't avoid. Another perhaps also basic need, is my personal need for connection, which is hardwired into my nervous system as a mammal. We each need to feel connected, to be seen and acknowledged, and as an artist I feel my art operates for me in this way. My art and the way it engages with others in this way is self-serving as the artist: it is meeting my needs. A more compelling, and I would argue evolved reason social engagement via my work is important to me is that I recognise the potential of art as a catalyst or prompt for a more meaningful connection. By this I mean it is not just self-serving and one-directional, but a two-way or multi-way exchange of considered, values-led ideas between artist and others.
So there are a few reasons that I am very motivated to focus on engagement with my work, and perhaps even to consider the engagement that occurs around my "work" as part of the work itself.