I am often asked where my ideas and inspiration come from. For those interested, see selected recent paintings accompanied by texts and thoughts read on …
“From 2016 to 2020, I am making a series of paintings as documentation of how I experience this particular time period. Some works merely have titles and others carry texts which give more insight into my thoughts and feelings associated with the themes and the paintings themselves. Many of these works describe the search for security and understanding in a particularly tumultuous era where suspicion, fear, hate, lies and pain abounds together with joy, disillusionment, and just not wanting to give a fuck about real problems that we feel that we cannot do anything about anyway (climate change, terrorism, pollution of air, water, land, fishes, food etc.). The temptation to drown ourselves in materialism, reality show life, and other banalities is great. This is also an era where many “old truths” are being exposed as having been fallacious, and where social concepts are challenged and flipped in the twinkling of an eye (or a media/social media scandal). Some of my works address specific persons in history, such as Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau, Jacques Brel, and others who I now see quite differently than in previous decades. I too have different “eyes” than before. And thus, many of the themes that I paint about in this series are (as usual with my work) issues, questions and ideas that can be experienced as uncomfortable to many. I give no answers, and make no statements or demands. I only ask questions — through images, geometry, color and textures on canvas.
“Every new painting is like throwing myself into the water without knowing how to swim.”
— Edouard Manet
ADAM AS PAINTER:
“My ‘style’? I instinctively rebel against being conveniently labelled as ‘this, or that’; just as I rebel against the so-called ‘rules of painting’, or ‘rules of writing’ … or populistic black-and-white classifications such as ‘political correctness vs. incorrectness’ etc. Actually, it is the audacity of these concepts that annoys me. The need of others to classify me, my art, my writing … or anything, is surely an indication of their own egotism, insecurities, limitations and weaknesses. Alas, we live in a world of labels, ratings, and quality judgments based on popularity and price. The closest relevant generic style classifications of my own art might be perhaps ‘abstract’, ‘colour field’, ‘geometric’, ‘abstract expressionist’, ‘minimalist’ etc. But I always find my own ‘mix’ … with limitless variations. My art and writing are meant to be different and new; and pleasing, challenging and annoying — at the same time.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
“Love illusion” is a smoky colourfield oil painting on canvas, 65 x 90 cm., 2016-2020. The aim was to use colourfield painting to address emotion. In this case the illusion of love is effected by a smoky grey region threatening to totally encompass the colour of classical love: pink. The eye is naturally drawn towards and into the central grey area, which has the appearance and effect of a snowy old-fashioned television screen — pulling us into a state of uncertainty and the unknown.
It cries out for sugar therapy:
“Eclipse”, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm., 2016-2020.
“Tears flowing while walking through the city”, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm., 2016-2020.
“Tears flowing while walking through the forest”, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm., 2016-2020.
Next, here is a musical hint about my painting entitled «Le jour du couronnement / L’obsession des Jacobites» (The Coronation Day / Jacobite Obsession»):
«Le jour du couronnement / L’obsession des Jacobites» (The Coronation Day / Jacobite Obsession»), 2016-2020:
This 90 x 65 cm. abstract-geometric landscape oil painting on canvas features textiles reminiscent of royalty and festivities: a plush luscious green velvet hill and a shimmering blue heavy silk fabric sky, separated by a gold and silver brocade sash which represents the horizon at dusk. Swaying in the precocious Scottish wind in the Sky of Dreams is a somewhat unstable and slightly-tarnished large golden fleur de lis, and in the bottom section is a cocksure prancing silver unicorn — the fleur de lis (the royal tressure) and the unicorn (the Scottish national animal) both being closely related to Scottish history and tradition. Together, all of these elements comprise the Jacobite obsession/dream of one day crowning a new Jacobite King or Queen of Scotland. Finally, the traditional St. Andrew’s saltire or crux decussata gives way to the glittering sword / scepter of glorious resurrection — of both St. Andrew and the Jacobite dream … never again to be subordinate, tortured, enslaved, murdered or otherwise “crucified”.
Alba gu bràth!
Details from the painting:
“Sunrise in early Spring”, 90 x 65 cm., oil on canvas, 2016-2020.
“Sunrise in early Spring” is a self-explanatory geometric/abstract oil painting on canvas inspired by the hints of Spring sunshine appearing already at the end of February — a doorway of Light predicting a new seasonal awakening.
“The lone moose at Sunset”, 90 x 65 cm., oil on canvas, 2016-2020.
The lone moose at sunset is a classic Norwegian motive that was popular in inexpensive kitsch paintings until the end of the 1970s. These paintings allude to typical Norwegian nature-romanticism, including the moose, afternoon/evening sun, pine forest, small forest ponds, and the quiet drama of the sunset that is bigger than Life. They are no longer found in each and every home and vacation cabin. Here I have re-introduced this iconic image in a modern color field context — emphasizing the dramatic elements of the all pervading sunset; and here suggesting the mystical qualities of the Northern Lights, a raging forest inferno and at once the quiet comfort and warmth of a fireplace. The lone moose disappears in the shadowy magnificent glow.
“Ne me quitte pas”, oil on canvas, 65 x 90 cm., 2016-2020 is an abstract geometric painting inspired by Jacques Brel’s famous love song, and its imagined personal history. Here his plea — Ne me quitte pas (Don’t leave me) — is scrawled on a blackboard in the mathematics classroom (an arena where the follies of hopeful youthfulness/adolescence meet up with the scientific rigours of deciding if a problem has zero, multiple or perhaps one solution only).
“Talking heads / Social media”, 90 x 65 cm., oil on canvas, 2016-2020, is all about “the buzz” (slander, lies, cheating, hate and trolling, #hatersgonnahate, #americafirst, #metoo etc.) in black and white.
“Faceless animus”, 65 x 90 cm., oil on canvas, 2016-2020, asks us how well we really know another person, and how much we really want to know about who they really are — the stereotypical/racial countenance … or the faceless animus that lies behind it?
“Le jeune homme et La Mort”, 65×90 cm., installation de peinture: huile sur toile et filet de camouflage, Adam Donaldson Powell, 2016-2020.
NB. Read my notes about this work and my personal process in creating it at the end of this page.
My piano instructor John Ranck plays “Les soirées de Nazelles”, by Poulenc:
Check out this great YouTube video by Jacek Zarzycki of a walk on the Postiguet beach:
NB. I personally consider Kazimir Malevich’s “White on white” painting to be a masterly work of art-philosophical genius. Read more about this iconic painting HERE!
See several of Adam’s paintings on
The year 2018 began with several miniature paintings that make up a series entitled: 18 études abstraites en miniature — Feindre l’indifférence dans un monde fou et brutal. (18 abstract studies, in miniature — Feigning indifference in a crazy and brutal world.). These works take a glance at “the elephant in the room”, i.e. big social awareness and other questions and issues that many of us give little space to (that we prefer to keep in miniature format). Many of these works are shamelessly within the genre «UGLY ART»
I wish this online exhibition to be more entertaining than merely looking at my paintings, without any other contextual material. Therefore I have included some illustrative materials that have either inspired me or which create additional commentary. These are in the forms of photos, poems, essays, and videos — both built in and linked. Enjoy!
— Adam Donaldson Powell, 2018
18 abstract studies, in miniature — Feigning indifference in a crazy and brutal world.
This miniature oil painting series is comprised of 18 small paintings (15×15 cm and 20×20 cm), which have various contemporary themes, including fame and death, love gained and lost, climate change, moving on in Life, #metoo, terror, sex, emotional vampires, nuclear storm weather forecasts and more. The paintings include: 1) “Endless Winter/Climate change”, 15×15 cm., oil on canvas, 2018; 2) “Spleen – love dissolving”, 20×20 cm., oil on canvas, 2018; 3) “Roses and a teardrop for Las Ramblas”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. This miniature abstract painting was inspired by the terror attack upon the people at Las Ramblas in Barcelona. It depicts a rose-floral wallpaper-like background with a line/queue that is broken — interrupted by a single teardrop; 4) “Trou de la gloire/Gaufres bleues; Oui, l’amour est bleu … et la véritable gloire est un trou dans un mur qui s’effrité, («Gloryhole/Blue waffles; Yes, love is blue … and real glory is a hole in a crumbling wall»)”, 15×15 cm., oil on canvas, 2018. I accidentally stumbled over photos of “blue waffles” on the Internet. They were so disgusting and glorious that I had to challenge myself to interpret the magnificent phenomenon; 5) “Ghosts no. 1 — Climate change sucks the life out of Spring”, 15×15 cm., oil on canvas, 2018; 6) “Ghosts no. 2 — Climate change sucks the life out of Spring”, 15×15 cm., oil on canvas, 2018; 7) “Love between vampires: Yeah, Baby — let’s tear off a piece! (L’amour entre les vampires: Viens m’enculer!)”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. Whether our needs for giving and receiving love bring out the vampire or the angel in us, it is all an expression of our evolving humanity; 8) “Niqab — of love and fetish in an age of terror”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. Keywords: niqab, AK47, roses, blood, hidden passion, discomforting eyes, risks, fetish, love, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018; 9) “Pissing on our parade”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. “Pissing on our parade”, is a commentary on gay violence — i.e. violence, murder and terror committed both by and against gays. LGBTQ-persons are “people”, and prone to the same problems and personality issues as all others in society. However, whenever an LGBTQ-person commits an act of terror (Orlando), sexual violence and harassment (by the way, these harassments are seldom investigated as #metoo, or even hate crimes), murder plus cannibalism, or other acts that feel like a violation of what many consider to be basic humane and civilised values, it feels as embarrassing to me as a gay person as muslims must feel when yet another act of hate-inspired terrorism is committed in the name of Islam. It is also embarrassing to me as a human and as a soul in active incarnation. These individuals — regardless of whether they are disturbed, or just hateful — are pissing on our parade. Keywords: pissing, parade, #stopthebleeding, wounded hearts, rainbow, #stopthehate; 10) “Silence.”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. “Silence.” is about the news and important information that we do not receive, or that is kept hidden from us by politicians, corporations, scientists and the mainstream media. It is also about what most of us are thinking but do not talk about due to social controls on thoughts, speech and actions. Silence should be a beautiful thing — a reprieve from the noise of everyday life and stress … but sometimes the silence is something to be feared. When we fear it, silence is the new noise; 11) “White Noise.”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. “White Noise” is about the constant chatter of mainstream media — spitting out and vomiting the same news stories ad nauseum; in all newspapers, radio and television stations, on the internet … all over the world, 24 hours a day. The noise keeps us company when we are alone and trying to escape the silence of loneliness … and we eventually neither listen to nor hear the warnings, worries and hatred broadcasted and echoed from high and low. The noise is our new silence; 12) and 13) “Broken Hallelujah in the Landscape of Life.”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. “Broken Hallelujah in the Landscape of Life” interprets the crevices, rips, tears and shattering we all experience, expected or not; i.e. those moments and periods where our hopes and dreams, infatuations, marriages, friendships, ways of perceiving the world and other people etc. fall apart, unravel and demand re-adjustment — with new vision. Although often quite painful, these adjustments provide us with opportunities to re-invent and re-define ourselves. The choice is ours: to suffer for an indeterminate period of time … or to climb down from the cross and explore “the new”, seeking balance — with a positive sense of moderation.“Ariston metron!” (“Moderation is best!); 14) “#metoo: Men’s room — the writing on the players’ wailing wall”, 15×15 cm, oil on canvas, 2018. This graffiti painting reveals the angry and dissatisfied murmurings of some men on social media and (as here) on a men’s room wall. It is generally considered to be politically incorrect for men to voice concern over matriarchal feminism and the #metoo movement, and the fear of loss of basic rights for men. When these voices are restricted to hidden enclaves and not allowed to be measured and discussed openly then the ensuing negative consequences can be devastating. The frustrated graffiti text includes: matriarchy; man-haters; Fuck #metoo; Fuck no sex; men prefer 1) whores, 2) men, 3) sex dolls; custody rights; lonely; feminazi; dutch treat etc.; 15) and 16) “Weather forecast — Warning, High Probability of Nuclear Storm; Part One: Alert” and Part Two: Perfect Storm”, 15 x 15 cm., oil on canvas, 2018. Perhaps the most immediate threat of annihilation of the planet and humanity is the threat of nuclear war and a serious nuclear accident. This work predicts a future where such threats becomes part of the weather and terror threat warning system. Colour code: yellow and black; the smoky grey background tells the rest of the story; 17) and 18) “Memento Mori — Fama (Starry Night)” and “Memento Mori — Damnatio Memoriae”, 15 x 15 cm., oil on canvas, 2018: These two simple, if not “pseudo-naïvistic”, paintings are about the naive personal quests for fame after death, i.e to live forever through our children’s or others’ minds — by way of recorded fame in this lifetime and myths; and the opposite and more likely reality: of being dead forever/being forgotten. In “Fama” the subtitle “Starry Night” functions as a Hollywood star reference as well as is a commentary about Vincent Van Gogh’s failure to achieve notoriety and artistic recognition before after his physical death. His own personal “starry night” is rather a quiet internal burning and ember-like glow — without spectacle. For artists, authors and musicians this notoriety is often established and maintained by way of representation, archives and mention in museum collections, published books, recordings, Wikipedia, the internet, history books etc. However, with ever-developing technology and increasing limited space in libraries and museums these hopes of living forever are being thwarted. For others who try to establish themselves as television hit show stars, as bloggers and as reality stars the goal is perhaps even more unattainable. We cannot take worldly acclaim with us to the afterlife, but to ensure that we still maintain a presence in this world after we leave it physically has been a dream of many for ages. The looming question is: “What is the purpose of Life and achieving notoriety — do we live for the ‘now’, or forever?” Another important question is “Should all art be made with the intention of it living forever; what is the value of temporary, performance and disposable art?” And of course, “Memento Mori — Damnatio Memoriae” reminds us that — should we fail to achieve lasting fame — we will not only remain “still dead” but we will disappear … forever, and without a trace, save possibly a short-lived grave and tombstone. These paintings comprise a series of miniature abstract oil paintings that are about feigning indifference in a crazy and brutal world because there is simply so much that seems out of our control and we must often pretend to be indifferent in order to survive from day to day.
Read my poem about love between vampires HERE!
NOTES REGARDING “LE JEUNE HOMME ET LA MORT”:
This discovery of mine regarding Cocteau and his “Le jeune homme et la mort” made me quite enraged with the man, and with how he used his art to get revenge. I went through a long process, at the end of which I decided to reinterpret his theme and create a modern version of “Le jeune homme et la mort”. Just to illustrate my thinking throughout this process, I have included quite a bit of diary notes — in my own halting French and in English. In a way, they are an important part of this art installation piece.
LE JEUNE HOMME ET LA MORT.
“Redéfinir l’interprétation de Cocteau de «Le jeune homme et la mort»:
Aujourd’hui, j’ai enfin pu mettre la dernière couche de textures sur ma peinture en cours: «Le jeune homme et la mort» – il représente un ordre violent et hasardeux; chaos mental blanchi à la chaux avec la conviction de purification et avec des marques d’automutilation … la dépression tourbillonnant avec des atonalites rythmiques tellement écrasante que l’électricité bleue des impulsions et des courants est étouffée par un énorme oreiller blanc qui donne une impression générale de calme et contrôle – tant que l’on suit religieusement chaque respiration. C’est une atmosphère de beauté violente; l’environnement intérieur qui lave et consume toutes les perceptions du monde extérieur, nous pousse à l’ultime acte de correction et de gloire: le suicide. La blancheur de la dépression est la lumière au bout du tunnel de la mort – promesse de renaissance, nouvelle virginité et ultime séduction. Les dalles épaisses de peinture représentent les murs de boue que nous érigeons pour nous garder en sécurité dans nos cocons – notre forteresse. La dépression ne concerne pas la tristesse, mais plutôt la construction de notre château dans les cieux, où notre indifférence au succès et à l’échec peut enfin s’épanouir. Nirvana. Ici, la mort n’est pas une femme, mais la propre psyché du jeune homme. La vision misogyne de Cocteau sera blanchie au néant, et exposée comme un vide qui se déguiserait en auto-victimisation masculine. Une fois que les nombreuses couches de peinture à l’huile sont complètement sèches, je vais couvrir la peinture minimaliste avec filet de camouflage ; qui forceront le spectateur à vouloir regarder les désagréments dans les images. Regarder sous le voile et ensuite s’identifier suffisamment dans le Mental pour pouvoir chercher le voile de Vide qui est sous le voile. Bien sûr, personne ne veut vraiment connaître la dépression d’une autre personne – surtout s’il est suicidaire. Nous combattons tous la même dépression et le néant. C’est seulement une pensée loin. Le résultat sera une peinture de sculpture en deux dimensions. Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau était très talentueux, très courageux, très “gay”, très célèbre … et très misogyne. Seuls les malheureux ou les idiots seraient heureux de le mettre en colère.” (Adam Donaldson Powell, Décembre 2017)
“Dans un atelier, un jeune homme seul attend. Entre la jeune fille qui était cause de sa détresse. Il s’élance vers elle, elle le repousse, il la supplie, elle l’insulte, le bafoue et s’enfouit. Il se pend. La chambre s’envole. Ne reste que le corps du pendu. Par les toits, la mort arrive en robe de bal. Elle ôte son masque : c’est la jeune fille. Alors elle pose son masque sur le visage de sa victime. Ensemble, ils s’en vont par les toits.”
— Jean Cocteau»
Plus de soixante-dix ans se sont écoulés depuis que ce travail a eu sa première mondiale. Et l’idée me hante toujours. L’histoire est trop mince … un cliché inverse conçu pour choquer. La femme qui triche a la froideur d’un homme, et l’homme désespéré (le cocu) se pendent comme la femme demande. L’ironie est qu’un certain nombre d’hommes aujourd’hui se suicident après l’infidélité ou le divorce de leur femme. Mais quoi d’autre est derrière ce suicide? Il y a sûrement des problèmes de dépression et de relation au sein de l’homme avant ce développement? La femme était-elle vraiment responsable de sa mort? L’infidélité d’une autre personne est-elle vraiment la cause du suicide – ou est-ce simplement un symptôme, le résultat d’une illusion de longue date qui ne peut plus être nié? N’est-ce pas une autre expression de la misogynie à l’époque du romantisme? Et comment puis-je recréer cette histoire / peinture – pénétrant davantage dans la psyché du jeune homme – bien au-delà de cette femme représentant la mort, qui peut si facilement être blâmée?
C’est la même chose pour les deux ou tous les sexes (il y en a plus de deux maintenant). Parce que la dépression et le suicide sont des sujets tabous, je veux forcer le public à s’engager à regarder et à marcher à l’intérieur du tableau. Ces problèmes doivent être normalisés – comme le cancer et d’autres syndromes et maladies de style de vie.
“Il est important de comprendre et d’accepter simplement que toutes nos expériences passées, qu’elles soient joyeuses ou tristes, continuent à nous accompagner tout au long de notre vie et affectent considérablement la façon dont nous nous sentons aujourd’hui. Les problèmes ne peuvent que déclencher des sentiments d’insécurité, de honte, d’envie ou de vengeance si nous nions qu’ils font partie de nous. Être submergé par de tels sentiments dans les situations les plus difficiles nous oblige à les reconnaître et à les intégrer consciemment en tant que parties naturelles de notre psyché. Ce n’est qu’alors que nous serons en mesure de développer une acceptation aimante de nous-mêmes avec tous nos défauts et insuffisances.”(astro.com)
Comme je le dis toujours, beaucoup de fiction est plus factuelle que ce que les lecteurs réalisent. Cocteau était très misogyne et sa fascination pour vouloir un fils, sa colère quand la femme de son choix (la princesse Natalie Paley) l’a rejeté: il a dit que les femmes étaient «les tueuses des enfants de poètes», les suicides dans sa vie, et ainsi de suite – indiquent ses problèmes psychologiques au travail dans cette histoire.
“Redefining Cocteau’s interpretation of “The young man and death”:
Today, I was finally able to put the last layer of textures on my current painting: “The young man and death” – it represents a violent and hazardous order; whitewashed mental chaos with the conviction of purification and with cutting knife marks of self-harm … and swirling depression with so many overwhelming rhythmic atonalites that the blue electricity of pulses and currents are stifled by a huge blanketing whiteness that gives a general impression of calm and control – as long as we follow each breath religiously. It is an atmosphere of violent beauty; the inner environment that cleanses and consumes all the perceptions of the outside world which drives us to the ultimate act of correction and glory: suicide. The whiteness of depression is the light at the end of the tunnel of death – promise of rebirth, new virginity and ultimate seduction. The thick slabs of paint represent the mud walls we erect to keep ourselves safe in our cocoons – in our fortress. Depression does not concern sadness, but rather the construction of our castle in heaven, where our indifference to success and failure can finally flourish. Nirvana. Here, death is not a woman, but the young man’s own psyche. The misogynistic vision of Cocteau will be whitewashed and exposed as a void that disguises itself as male self-victimization. Once the many layers of oil paint are completely dry, I will cover the minimalist painting with camouflage netting, this in order to force the viewer to want to look at the discomfort in the pictures. To look under the veil and then to identify oneself sufficiently in the Mind to be able to look for the veil of Emptiness that is under the veil. Of course, no one really wants to know about another person’s depression – especially if they are suicidal. We are all fighting the same depression and nothingness. It’s only a thought away. The result will be a two-dimensional sculpture painting. Jean Maurice Eugene Clement Cocteau was very talented, very brave, very “gay”, very famous … and very misogynistic. Only the unfortunate or idiots would be stupid enough to try to make him angry.” (Adam Donaldson Powell, December 2017)
“The young man and death In a workshop, a young man alone is waiting. In comes the girl who was the cause of his distress. He rushes towards her, she pushes him away, he begs her, she insults him, scoffs at him and tells him to go hang himself. He hangs himself. Only the body of the hanged man remains. Through the roofs, death then returns in a prom dress. She takes off her mask: it’s the girl. So she puts her mask on the face of her victim. Together, they go through the roofs.”
— Jean Cocteau
More than seventy years have passed since this work had its world premiere. And the idea still haunts me. The story is too thin … a cheap shot designed to shock. The cheating woman has the coldness of a man, and the desperate man (the cuckold) hang himself as the woman demands. The irony is that a number of men today commit suicide after their wife’s infidelity or divorce. But what else is behind this suicide? Surely there are problems of depression and relationship within man before this development? Was the woman really responsible for his death? Is the infidelity of another person really the cause of suicide – or is it just a symptom, the result of a long-standing illusion that can no longer be denied? Is not this another expression of misogyny in the age of Romanticism? And how can I recreate this story / painting – penetrating more into the young man’s psyche – far beyond this woman representing death, who can so easily be blamed?
It’s the same for both or all genders (there are more than two now). Because depression and suicide are taboo subjects, I want to force the public to commit to watching and walking inside the painting. These problems need to be normalized – like cancer and other syndromes and lifestyle diseases.
“It is important to understand and simply accept that all our past experiences, whether joyful or sad, continue to accompany us throughout our lives and greatly affect the way we feel today. Problems can only trigger feelings of insecurity, shame, envy or revenge if we deny that they are part of us. To be overwhelmed by such feelings in the most difficult situations requires us to recognize them and consciously integrate them as natural parts of our psyche. Only then will we be able to develop a loving acceptance of ourselves with all our flaws and shortcomings.” — from www. astro.com
As I always say, a lot of fiction is more factual than readers realize. Cocteau was very misogynistic and obsessed with wanting a son, and had great anger when the woman of his choice (Princess Natalie Paley) rejected him: he said that women were “the killers of poets’ children”, there had been many suicides in his life, and so on – all of which indicate his psychological problems at work in this story.
With Nureyev in the title role:
And with Barishnikov (from “White Nights”): HERE!
Read about Gustave Moreau’s painting “The Young Man and Death” HERE!
Ah, feck it!