Painting was not an easy choice for Alexander Adams. "It was a tough vocation to be a painter at Goldsmiths College (crucible of installation and conceptual art) in the early 1990s, when I studied there," he says. "Figurative painters took more stick than any other group. Many students gave up painting due to the intense pressure. If a painter made it through unscathed then he/she really was committed to the discipline of painting."
Adams depictions of interior and exterior scenes are quite literally dark. He deliberately denies the emotive, decorative and descriptive potential of colour. "I decided to restrict myself to black and white initially to test my inventiveness and perseverance," he says. "Later, I became increasingly engaged by the peculiar difficulties of grisaille style. I wanted to discover how poignant and vital art could be within very restricted parameters." By limiting himself and his pallet, Adams hopes he will express himself more eloquently. "Perhaps one could drain away colour yet retain vigour," he says. "I wanted to remake the world but this art would be an artificial world, an impossible place bounded by absurd restrictions. With the gouache series, my intention was to make an endless encyclopedia of the visual world, like a scrapbook, like a life remembered through a miscellany of random memories."
The difficulty of categorizing Adams' paintings and the occasionally dark subjects he addresses has meant he has found no natural home in London commercial galleries. Despite many solo exhibitions in the UK and group shows here and abroad, his work has been exhibited in London only rarely. His most recent exhibition was a solo show touring six venues. From this tour the University of Wales at Aberystwyth and the University of Liverpool acquired pieces for their permanent collections. Adams says that selling art via the Internet has been valuable in reaching private collectors and bypassing London-based critics. "If my work goes to collections as diverse as those of big collectors, first-time buyers and museums, then that seems fitting for art that seeks to put the whole world in a limitless sequence of tiny rectangles, made only of black, white and grey," he says.
Adams' work is currently in the collections of Paul O'Grady, Michael Barrymore and a number of museums in the UK and Russia, as well as in private collections around Europe. A solo exhibition will take place in Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea in January-February 2008.