T. Wignesan (Parisian author) has interviewed me on behalf of my publisher Cyberwit.net:
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS —
T. WIGNESAN – ADAM DONALDSON POWELL.
T. WIGNESAN: I – WHY WRITE?
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: In all honesty, I did not choose to write; the writing chose me. It is both a passion and a necessity for my survival and expression; in addition to my personal contribution to the development and advancement of art, society and humanity. I do not worry about becoming famous. Being famous with the goal of ego gratification is a “useless occupation”.
I am but one small cog in a very big wheel — the Wheel of Existence; on the same level of significance as any other entity in our Universes … forever expanding and contracting in consciousness, expressing a myriad of ideas, emotions and behaviour patterns, and forever breathing the Eternal (the Breath and Essence of God). Surely, I have my own take on Existentialist and Nihilistic philosophies but my only “Truths” are my thoughts, words and actions — in each moment. And for me, each moment is the sum of the Whole of Existence, in any one instance in space and time, and from my individual perspective — which is co-created (together) with my environment. Thus to me, writing is breathing Creation. And the Spirit and act of creation are the seeds of renewal/renaissance, and the dissolution of concepts of past, present and future as well as the idea that anything is separate from anything/anyone else. By being creative I assert my role in the ever self-defining Divine project called Existence.
As regards celebrity, I actually know a bit about that having had many years where I was recognised from TV, newspapers etc. as an activist and artist/author. Sometimes it was pleasant, and there have also been incidents where I felt threatened when recognised as “that person”. Public personalities are clothing/roles that are taken on, but they are not the individual’s personality. Therefore, for me, fame is not a goal — but it can be a condition and lifestyle to which one must adjust and which bears great responsibility.
T. WIGNESAN: II – “Why write” does touch on both the personal motivations for indulging in words and having them bound in book form metaphorically by one’s own hand, just as much as they apply to the broader objective perspective in the light of the great masters and teachers (who never wrote – some likely were analphabète like Akbar – down their most influential teachings) who have for – better or worse – given us our ever evolving world: Zarathustra, the Hindu Rishis, Moses, Buddha, Mahavira, Christ, Lao Tse, Confucious, Bodhidharma, Mahomet (I’m not sure about the Hebrew prophets). The Tao Te Ching and the Confucian Analects cannot be legitimately attributed to the authors’ own hands.
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: My writing is “published” in many formats: in books, in my paintings, on the internet, performed onstage etc. Books once represented a form of “permanence” for authors but now many libraries are digitalising their collections, bookstores have limited space and are selective with regards to which authors, titles and subject matters they give space to as well as impose limitations on how long a book can take up shelf space. In the fast-paced technological life of today authors must also adapt to both changing markets and publication arenas, as well as how to meet a public that is “on the run” and multi-tasking. I do not personally own many books anymore, as I have given away hundreds to libraries, organisations and private persons. Knowledge and joy should be spread around — not hoarded, and left to gather dust.
Does one need to have something to say in order to want to write?
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: No, not all writing is meant to be read by others, and by the same token not all writing has to have a serious message. I have written poems and made paintings that are essentially about nothing important, and also minimalistic works about “Nothingness”. However, longer works such as short stories, essays, novellas and novels would generally require a purpose that is larger than that of eg. a “haiku moment” — in order to hold the attention of a reading public.
That being said, I love to test out variations on minimalism in my novels; deciding myself how much descriptive verbiage I offer the reader, when and where. This in order to seduce the reader into an active role as co-creator of “the story”; and, yes, on “my terms”. In that way I can interact with the Reader who accepts what is written and how it is presented, and then suddenly meets upon a provocation that was embedded within the presentation all the while. That is Art imitating Life, n’est-ce pas?
This minimalistic style is closely related to my own philosophy of extreme art and literature. “Extreme literature” can be philosophical, political, religious, sexually-oriented, profane, or just downright “dangerous” because it rocks others’ boat(s) personally. Not all literature is “pretty”, and even humour can be considered provocative. Many authors have works they (and others) consider to be “extreme”. All throughout the history of art and literature, artists and writers have pressed against and played with society’s tolerances – in both “liberal” epochs, “conservative” epochs and (as now) in states of “moral confusion”, where Western concepts of freedom of speech sometimes butt against national and local cultural mores and social politics; and where danger lurks and thrives on non-specific and situational social codes and fears.
The concept of “EXTREME ART AND LITERATURE” changes all the time. What is actually “extreme” today – in a mixture of globalised, regionalised, nationalised and localised perspectives? My own opinion is that “extreme art and literature” today takes its starting point in the accepted banalities of everyday life, experiences and consciousness on the respective and combined levels (social, philosophical, political, economical, sexual and spiritual). Contemporary “extreme art / literature” no longer attempts to shock in an obvious way, but rather entices the public to feel that he / she is a “member” of the experiential understanding and consciousness, only to interject a “triggering” aspect that creates a sense of uncomfortableness caused by the realisation that one has been busted by a banality. These “trigger mechanisms” are (in fact) integral parts of the art itself – often passing by in fleeting moments, sometimes blended in with an obsessive and “flat” (journalistic or photojournalistic) expression or a long tirade of banalities that do not even pretend to be surrealistic. These small “electrical shock” triggers will hopefully ignite an inner experience within the public so that the viewer / reader begins to investigate his / her own personal reality, his / her actual contributions to a collective reality and hopefully to re-evaluate his / her own concept of what one prefers to create as an individual and collective reality. The illusion of spiritual and emotional separation (the illusion that we are all separate, individual and self-sustaining entities that can determine our roles on Terra or in the Interlife totally without contact or influence with / from others) is a vital element here, and that common illusion is therefore “fertile ground” for artists. Here we artists and authors can play, provoke, prevaricate, entice, seduce and fool the audience to believe in us as a part of “themselves”, and then trigger the reader / viewer to consider the possibility that there might be (in fact) a miscommunication or misconception running loose … a sense of everyday reality that is inconsistent or which has consequences that one was never aware of.
Perhaps the most meaningful and interactive way to help another person to “wake up” from their perceptual drowsiness is to enter into their everyday dreams and illusions (their banalities) and suddenly say “BOO!!!” Artists and authors who attempt to shock through their art with the blatantly obvious, often thus fail to explore and exploit the deeper, symbolic depths of the subconscious and the more mystical elements that make up our everyday and banal thoughts, activities, attitudes etc., and therefore are denied “personal access” by some viewers / readers who may consider the art to be too intellectual, too elitist, too directly confrontational, or too foreign.
Sex and religion are often used today in art and literature as “shock elements”. It is not necessarily sex or religion which are provocative or interesting in themselves, but rather the unspoken and quietly accepted perceptions that we chain ourselves to unquestionably, and which can totally be set in chaos just by the artist and author changing or adding one simple element or context that we do not feel belongs in our reality-defining “picture”.
“Extreme art and literature” is thus not blatantly provocative in itself; it rather shows the audience the possible ramifications of acceptance, non-involvement, personal meanings and behaviour by confronting us with triggered or mixed in “extreme” moments, and then lets the audience choose to begin its own personal creative life process of evaluation and re-creation (if desired) … without commentary or guidance.
When I presented myself to Marina Abramovic as a “retired activist” she responded by asking me if an activist can ever be finished with activism. Of course, she is right. The process of rebellion is nothing more than one intermittent set of activities and actions in a constant redefining and assertion of the Self, both individually and collectively. Art is the ultimate expression of the process of rebellion. If an artist loses that quality, he/she “dies” in a certain way. My art and literature are not just extensions of me … they are my created persona: a sweet mixture of heaven and hell, with a pinch of banalities for flavouring.
T. WIGNESAN: (b) Does the old dictum: “Poetry is made with words, not ideas” still apply?
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: What is a poem? It is definitely not a daydream. A poem is a carefully constructed literary bonsai, cultivated with loving discipline and good planning. The air of spontaneity and dreaminess is only an illusion, and it is the result of great craftsmanship. Yes, poetry is comprised of several tools; and words are perhaps the most important device. But words, silences, punctuation, structure, rhythm, colour, sounds, visual associations etc. all play together in order to make a successful piece of writing. Poems are essentially just one facet of the diamond; of a story; of a possible reality. Do poems represent ideas, and are they made with words? Yes, of course. But a successful poem is an instance of Déjà vu— often recognisable beyond the words alone.
T. WIGNESAN: III – You have now given us your “cosmovision”, as Carlos Bousoño would describe it, a philosophical standpoint that is rich with implications for art and literature – “extreme art and literature” as you put it – which impinges on the average individual’s (average reader or viewer’s) reality with its consequential attributes of jolting consciousness through the shock of subversive “trigger mechanisms” (to be read also as “rebellion” against the norm or status quo?) — all of which makes of you a veritable activist. Now, how do you transcribe this engagé attitude to the specifics of writing, on the one hand, your own considerable output and, on the other, appreciating the works of others?
In my view, judging by your critique of my books, you have willy-nilly chosen the psychological approach to aesthetics and hence the overwhelming impressionistic taint in your pronouncements. Not that they are not valid – far from it – but it would serve to clarify your ultimate critical stance(s) if you could elaborate on your acceptance or rejection of the critical concepts of “affective fallacy” as opposed to “intentional fallacy”.
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: Hmm … Wimsatt and Beardsley on intentional and affective fallacy. First let me respond to your premise that I have “willy-nilly” chosen a psychological approach to aesthetics in my criticism of your novels. Since you have taken my criticism of your novels as an example, I will answer you in the same fashion.
In my opinion many of your novels (that I have read) have an exciting underpinning of the existential and psychological, if you will — a degree of playing with the minds of the reader(s) … perhaps sometimes seeking to test or out-smart him/her. There is nothing wrong with that; it is fairly common in literature. I would classify that as an “intention”, supported by various situations, emotions and feelings illustrated in certain ways and with certain styles of writing. Obviously, when I become aware that the twists and turns that you often create in your stories are finely tailored then I instinctively begin to evaluate both the literary mechanisms that you are using and their degree of success for me as Reader. To me, art is not entirely (or even primarily) accidental — but rather is based upon ideas, intentions and plans for execution. In addition, I personally believe that all art created is in part biographical — i.e. possess some thoughts, experiences, personality traits, memories etc. known, imagined or dreamed about by the artist/author. Art is by nature both subjective and objective. That means that art is not just public, but also personal — to the author, and to his/her audience who must process the effects of the information, visuals etc. in relation to one’s own personal framework of ideas, attitudes and experiences. For me, assessing the success of a work of art is by nature based upon whether or not the perceived intention of the representation “works for me”. Why? Because I am both subjective and objective in my attempts to find meaning and personal relevance in a work of art that I am inviting into my consciousness. But it is not enough to merely say that “I do not like it because it does not work for me.” I should hopefully be able to relate what does not appeal to me/function for me — and why. I do not particularly like much modern rhyming poetry, and I can explain why in both subjective and objective (technical) terms. So yes, I do offer authors and publishers bits of objective and textual criticism … i.e. criticism based upon the relative success of technical aspects of the writing, style, form, etc. However, my job as a literary critic is not to serve as a professor of creative writing and to go into great detail about what exactly does not work (for me) technically. That is not popular with the writers, nor with the publishers — who want a positive review that will help to sell books, rather than a critical one (which potential book buyers may want). Often I write those comments in a separate note to the publisher and author. Usually authors are thankful — both for my insights, and that it is done in that way.
I list quite specifically what I look for objectively in my answer to the final question.
T. WIGNESAN: IV – Correct me if I’m wrong, I would have thought what gives your critical responses to any creative work depth and infinite modulations is your own trained ear for music. You are an accomplished pianist, and in your own words have avowed having earned – by more than half – your income in New York by playing at restaurants, bars, weddings, etc. Do you agree?
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: While I studied piano under some well-known concert pianists for several years in New York City, and before that played the violoncello in a youth orchestra, I would be the first to take issue with being called “an accomplished pianist” or an accomplished anything else. Back then — in New York City — everyone I met was an artist, a writer, an actor, a musician etc., and thus the “litmus test” was earning at least part of one’s income in that profession. Being a musician, artist, actor, writer etc. is a job — in fact a 24-hour job which includes many hours of practicing, rehearsing, thinking, and planning before a final work or performance is executed. It is a work that is never finished, because the possibilities are endless and the Mind of an artist never seems to stop chattering. In my own mind, each poem, story, novel, painting is part of one larger ongoing work of art — that of me reacting to Life and my environment(s).
For me, the transition from classical music to poetry and then to painting was fairly natural and logical. In all of those art forms ideas are converted to pictures and sounds which evoke a myriad of reactions and recognitions in the viewer/audience. Each artistic discipline requires a balanced combination of technical skills, some understanding of the history of artistic traditions throughout modern history, and the ability to translate abstractions into suggestions of something seemingly “tangible” to our senses, recollections and feelings. So, in that sense, yes I can agree that much of my sensibility as regards visual art and literature (especially my poetry) has its nascence in music — sounds, rhythms, colour, speed, action, movement … all interpreted within (and sometimes beyond) an ever-evolving framework of techniques and styles pressing toward new forms of expression. To me, art (performance or visual) is not about being or becoming “accomplished”. One never fully arrives as an artist, as there is always some new peak to climb — stumbling, crawling, and running towards an infinity that can never be reached, by definition.
T. WIGNESAN: V – What may your thoughts be on these heroic couplets? (This is not a required “test”. You are welcome to ignore it.)
One science only will one genius fit;
So vast is art, so narrow human wit:
Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
But oft in those confined to single parts.
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL: Ahhh — excellent! — an excerpt from Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Criticism”. Well, T. Wignesan, as you well know these lines must certainly be judged in the larger context of the poetic work — namely the importance of self-knowledge (rather than mere literary theory) to criticism, as well as understanding that individual tastes and preferences of both Critic and Artist have both their limitations and their “genius”. However, in my opinion, because all art forms have history (of style and technical development, culture and politics), being an artist can also be considered to be an expression of a “studied and skilled science” that is heightened by intuitive and philosophical genius.
I personally believe — and have stated many times as a literary critic — that it is important to periodically specify what I personally look for in literary works that I am asked to comment on. I believe that it is important for the Reader both in relation to understanding the nature and framework of my criticism, and also as a possible “guide” for aspiring writers who wish to look beyond so-called “standard rules of writing” in their understanding and assessment of possibilities in their own artistic development.
I have written the following (several times) regarding what I aspire towards in my own writing, and what I also look for in the work of other writers whose work I have been asked to comment on: “I look for many qualities, including evenness in quality, diversity in content and form, artistic intent, planning, execution and polish (the degree of polish being both intentional and commensurate with the desired expression), and an overall concept of the book as a complete work of art – beyond an arbitrary “stew” of individual poems. In addition, I pay attention to the author’s sense of originality, political and social awareness, mastery of storytelling, and visual, musical and philosophical expressions indicative of the author’s experiential personal history. I further look for: balance of intellectual rationalism and emotional presence, a solid command of the full palette of language(s) used, descriptive colour, clarity, intentional usage of abstractions, entertainment and theatrical/performance value, humour and occasional irony, and an overall sense of when to use poetic economy versus poetic rapture. And finally I am concerned that the author has an understanding of how to arouse within the reader a sense of personal identification, emotion and engagement – enabling the reader’s ‘inner artist’ to enter into a creative cognitive dialogue with the author, and hopefully even to inspire the reader to embark upon his/her own creative process. I believe that art is both an intentional and an intuitive process, with many pitfalls: eg. overwriting, non-attention to levels of language used ($5 words can sometimes be more appropriate than $5000 words), stylistic and punctuation liberties that sometimes work and sometimes not, mimicking famous (and usually deceased) writers without sufficiently developing one’s own signature style, and getting all too caught up in – or ignoring – traditions of literature without having thought through why one has consciously chosen this or that style, or a divergence … just to name a few. At the same time, I believe that artists must always keep experimenting in order to grow and to develop further. That means taking risks … and sometimes even falling flat on one’s face. That is okay. We eventually learn from both our own … and others’ mistakes.”
As to whether literary criticism is, in fact, a “science” or a literary art form in itself, well, I think it can (and perhaps should) be both.
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. He has published several literary books (including collections of poetry, short stories, and novellas, two science fiction novels, a biography, and a collection of essays) in the USA, Norway and India; as well as numerous works in international literary publications on several continents. He writes in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has read his poetry at venues in New York City (USA), Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires (Argentina), and Kathmandu (Nepal). His book “Gaytude” (co-authored with Albert Russo) won the 2009 National Indie Excellence Award in the category gay/lesbian non-fiction. Powell was also the winner of the Azsacra International Poetry Award in 2008, and the recipient of a Norwegian Foreign Ministry travel stipend for authors in 2005. Powell also took initiative to planning and organizing the “Words – one path to peace and understanding” international literary festival in Oslo, Norway in 2008. He has been an author under the Cyberwit label since 2005, and he has published 13 literary books since 1987.
“There are some people who feel that fiction should be easy to read, that it’s a popular medium that should communicate on a somewhat conversational wavelength. On the other hand, there are those who feel that fiction can be challenging … that it’s okay if a person needs to work a bit while reading …
“Much in the way that would-be civilized debates are polarized by extreme thinkers on either side, this debate has been made to seem like an either/or proposition, that the world has room for only one kind of fiction, and that the other kind should be banned …
“But while the polarizers have been going at it, there has existed a silent legion of readers, perhaps the majority of readers of literary fiction, who don’t mind a little of both.”
— Dave Eggers, foreword to David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
“Death is creative, but not picky — she will claim us according to her time schedule and whims, regardless of cause of Death. Don’t obsess over Death. Live each moment as if it were your first and last.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
My two latest published books:
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
“X, Y and Z Generations … in Troubled Times”, is a series of three self-portraits, challenging the ways I see myself and the ways I wish others to see/experience me. Today’s challenges are many, and the successive generations barely have time for needed self-reflection in the face of the daily, fast-changing technological, climate and other challenges. In this painting I invite the viewer to face himself/herself in this world where faces and Art are often just another image.
I personally experience this painting as scary and uncomfortable. What I mean by saying that the painting is “scary” is that it confirms the dilemma that I face in today’s crazy World — an “unfinished symphony” that is essentially never to be totally understood.
There were never to be any figures totally painted because the pictures represent people/humanity/me in development and unraveling. The pic of me all dressed up in a fur coat is the “show guy” presenting himself to The World … (x-generation). The y-generation me with the green face is the creative and thinking me — absorbed in my own thoughts and ideas, but battling against those imposed upon me by living in The World. And the z-generation is me blocking out and hiding from The World, the mental bombardments of images, coined phrases, propaganda, advertisements, and the glaring and oppressive heatwaves and sunlight etc. That image is in the largest state of disintegration, the skin coloring depicting a body that is almost lifeless and the head partially covered by a veil of mourning. Of course, all of the images are (as is the Internet, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, mainstream media and alternative media) manipulations — leaving out ears (i.e. really hearing and listening) and other details in order “to guide” the viewer into focusing upon the sunglasses, clothing and accessories (headlines) instead of seeing the person (content) inside … and we are consequently in a continuous struggle for self-marketing and esteem vs. incompletion and dissatisfaction with systems of ethics and values that both constrain and embrace us.
The painting is “The Scream” that was never really expressed outwardly. And the minimalistic pastel-colored background is the general environment of denial — “everything is normal” — that acts as a sedative, more than inspiration.
«Vanishing Act», 46 x 55 cm., oil on canvas, 2020, is a raw self-portrait about being careful what we wish for. While many would wish for the rapid disappearance of the CoronaVirus (COVID-19), it would presently seem more plausible that such reference be most applicable to the Fade-Out Star (R Coronae Borealis). In the upper left corner one can barely make out a vanishing star, consumed by the Darkness of Uncertainty — truly Hell in its most natural form. The raw background hints of that in many well-known paintings by Old Masters, but here there is a messy disharmony that is threatening to consume the figure in the painting and the viewer — like an unavoidable train wreck … in slow motion. There are many important lessons yet to be learned from the COVID-19 experience. It is karmic, and in that understanding lies a solace that enables us to adapt to both life during struggle … and to the inevitability of Death. The figure — itself already vanishing behind protective gear — is waist-deep in the mire, but is yet optimistic — if not aloof to the dangers of chance and folly. The true challenge is perhaps not how quickly or how completely we can return to normality, but whether the former normality is actually the problem itself.
“Les vents de l’Enfer”, 65 x 90 cm., Huile sur toile; basé sur les six faces par lesquelles nous percevons la mort —
La mort en tant qu’ennemi,
La mort en tant qu’étranger,
La mort en tant qu’ami,
La mort en tant que mère,
La mort en tant que voleur et
La mort en tant qu’amant.
Writing about Death is not foreign to me, but I have only approached the theme once before in my paintings. Thus, I have made a new painting about Death (which for we who survive others becomes a personal Hell for a time). And regardless of how we see Death, the Hell of loss is still there gnawing away at us … underneath the masks we put on to shield ourselves and others in our grief.
Here is my previous painting about Death:
I am accomplished and recognized in many areas, including art, literature, performing arts and activism. My life as an activist: my activism began when I was a teenager in USA — as a strong opponent to the war in Vietnam and a conscientious objector to the draft. I was even thrown out of the courtroom of Judge Julius Hoffman (of the Chicago Seven case fame) for misbehavior.
Since then I have engaged myself in the rights of several social groups including the homeless, gays, artists, immigrants and persons with AIDS. I have represented Norway internationally and at the UN in NYC, I have debated with several government ministers in Norway on tv, radio, newspapers, delivered public speeches, and started organizations to preserve and secure the rights of artists and of unemployed immigrants. While I am now retired from activism, I am proud of my almost fifty years of public service as an activist — complemented by my literary and artistic works in support of these issues. I started and ran the organization Artists in Motion (for artists of all artistic disciplines in Norway) and the Norwegian World AIDS Day Art Exhibitions, among other initiatives. I have made notable and documented contributions in Norway and internationally through debates and speeches, music (I studied piano under several renowned concert pianists in NYC), theater and dance stage performances, art exhibitions, publications, literary engagements on four continents, and more. You will no longer find me on Facebook, Twitter, English Wikipedia (Norwegian Wikipedia, yes) etc. I have pulled out of several accounts on all (and also two previous Instagram profiles) despite having maximum « friends/followers ». I prefer space to be myself, and to set my own artistic, literary and socio-political agendas. I market my ideas more than my art and my literature. My art and my literature are representations of my philosophies, my ideas and my politics about Life, the world, art and literature. My art is found in several countries, and my fourteen published books (in all major genres) are written in several languages and published on three continents.
“Model”: Tor (in memoriam).
« What is the importance of attention to background in painting? Ha! The concept of background as a separate entity is an illusion — even in minimalistic art it is both an important protagonist on the stage, as well as the cast of supporting actors. Context Baby … context defines the entire painting. »
— Adam Donaldson Powell
ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a multilingual author, literary critic, and art photography critic; and a professional visual artist. My ‘style’? I react to being conveniently labelled as ‘this, or that’ as vehemently as I rebel against the so-called ‘rules of painting’, or ‘rules of writing’ … or ‘political correctness’ etc. Actually, it is the audacity of these concepts that annoys me. The need for others to classify me, my art, my writing … or anything, is surely an indication of their own egotism, insecurities, limitations and weaknesses. The closest relevant generic style classifications 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. I have resided several places in the USA, as well as in Spain and (currently) in Norway. My art often addresses cultural, political, social and spiritual issues relevant to our day and age.
My aim is not necessarily to produce art that “is ornamental” but rather to challenge ideas, ideals, behaviour patterns etc. that often pass by uncommented. I am further interested in questioning the relationships between politics and art, social media and art and social dynamics in a globalised context which often prioritises (in my opinion) social media short cuts to celebrity-status, politically-correct trends, blatant artistic style copying, and lack of creativity as regards current and future relationships between artists, art galleries, art museums, street art and art on the internet. My perspective is that creativity is now a “human right and a vital resource”, and that the truest value in art today lies not in a long curriculum vitae or social media hype, but rather in the art that is freshly-/newly-produced and the contexts in which it is presented and marketed. The function of art today and in the near future is (again, in my opinion) directly related to the degree in which art inspires and encourages all persons to embrace creativity in their lives, rather than to create individual “icons”.
“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
— Chuck Close
Sitat: “Det er viktig å ha gode tekniske ferdigheter men kunst krever publikumstekke, publikumsvennlige ideer, budskap og evne til å bevege mennesker — enten til glede og inspirasjon eller forakt etc. God kunst formidler ut fra hjertet og tankene til kunstneren som beboer på planeten. Det tekniske blir ingen erstatning for dette.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
Quote: “It’s important to have good technical skills, but art requires crowd appeal, ideas of public/social interest, messages and the ability to move people – either to joy and inspiration or contempt etc. Good art conveys from the heart and mind of the artist as one who lives on the planet. Technical skills alone will not compensate for lack of this.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
“Every new painting is like throwing myself into the water without knowing how to swim.”
— Edouard Manet
“Like Vincent van Gogh, I am an impasto painter. My painting tools include brushes, knives, plastic, rags, sponges, credit cards, pieces of wood, leaves, fingers, hands, feet … basically, whatever it takes to create the effect, textures and spirit of the idea to be conveyed. I paint on everything I can find: canvas, paper, wooden boards, cardboard, cloth, styrofoam, rocks … It is both a passion and an addiction. Lots of dopamine in my brain, I guess.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
MAPPLETHORPE IN TRIPTYCH.
I decided that it was best to depict Mapplethorpe in an expressionist style – and almost like a charcoal and chalk painting. This to depict the simplicity he has hidden behind in his public appearances, and in his art photography. The wisdom of that choice is apparent in the picture in the middle, which deals with his internal perceptions of himself, and where the spectator’s eye goes straight to the majestic Cala Lily – The flower of Death – which Mapplethorpe was so keen on. And the flower is so calm and majestic that the drama of the expressionist style is immediately reset in a single glance.
Robert Mapplethorpe triptych – a work-in-progress. Keywords: Mapplethorpe, tabloid (lurid, sensational) art, guns as penises, penises as guns, splattered blood, blood stains, sex, AIDS, crosses, Calla lily (flower of Death), sado-masochism, fetish, narcissism, pecs and nipples, the body as a living sculpture, perfection vs. the glory of the imperfect, Don Herron’s iconic Tubshot photo. Each panel measures 40 x 50 cm.
NB. Yes, I address Mapplethorpe’s obsession with Black men and their bodies / genitals by featuring Mapplethorpe himself in mirror image — as both Caucasian and Negroid. In this way his desire to completely embody and define ultimate personification of sexuality will finally be complete.
The iconic Don Herron Tubshots photo of Mapplethorpe was chosen as my model because I actually met Mapplethorpe at his loft when Don and I delivered the photograph to him. This triptych is my “tribute” to both Don Herron and Robert Mapplethorpe.
And here is Don’s portrait of me (in our bathtub in the East Village, NYC in 1978):
“Vertigo”, 50×50 cm., oil on canvas with “watercolour effect”.
«Sunrise in early Spring», oil on canvas, 65×90 cm., 2018.
REGARDING MY INSPIRATION AND IDEAS …
“I see poetry everywhere. In fact, each and every one of my paintings is a poem or a story … with hints of a song, an opera, a dance, a theater performance.”
— Adam Donaldson Powell
Redefining Cocteau’s interpretation of “The young man and death”:
My painting — entitled “The young man and death” – 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.
“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.
“Le jeune homme et la mort”, 65×90 cm., oil on canvas. This is my re-interpretation of Cocteau’s idea for the famous ballet. See my notes about this HERE!
“Love illusion”, 65×90 cm., oil on canvas.
ADAM AS PHOTOGRAPHER:
See my Oslo Street Art Documentation Photography (including documentation of works by The London Police, Galo, Shepard Fairey, Logan Hicks, D-Face, Will Barras, Faile, Martin Whatson and many unnamed graffiti artists) HERE!
I have reviewed art and photography: art photography appearing in photography book publications, paintings in public exhibitions, and art photography collections made for / on the internet. Here are two examples of my photography criticism using an epistolary format:
PERSONAL STATEMENT ABOUT EXTREME ART AND LITERATURE (and why I love semi-realism):
“Extreme literature” can be philosophical, political, religious, sexually-oriented, profane, or just downright ‘dangerous’ because it rocks others’ boat(s) personally. Not all literature is “pretty”, and even humour can be considered provocative. Many authors have works they (and others) consider to be “extreme”. All throughout the history of art and literature, artists and writers have pressed against and played with society’s tolerances – in both “liberal” epochs, “conservative” epochs and (as now) in states of “moral confusion”, where Western concepts of freedom of speech sometimes butt against national and local cultural mores and social politics; and where danger lurks and thrives on non-specific and situational social codes and fears.
The concept of ‘EXTREME ART AND LITERATURE’ changes all the time. What is actually ‘extreme’ today – in a mixture of globalised, regionalised, nationalised and localised perspectives? My own opinion is that ‘extreme art and literature’ today takes its starting point in the accepted banalities of everyday life, experiences and consciousness on the respective and combined levels (social, philosophical, political, economical, sexual and spiritual). Contemporary ‘extreme art / literature’ no longer attempts to shock in an obvious way, but rather entices the public to feel that he / she is a ‘member’ of the experiential understanding and consciousness, only to interject a “triggering” aspect that creates a sense of uncomfortableness caused by the realization that one has been busted by a banality. These “trigger mechanisms” are (in fact) integral parts of the art itself – often passing by in fleeting moments, sometimes blended in with an obsessive and “flat” (journalistic or photojournalistic) expression or a long tirade of banalities that do not even pretend to be surrealistic. These small “electrical shock” triggers will hopefully ignite an inner experience within the public so that the viewer / reader begins to investigate his / her own personal reality, his / her actual contributions to a collective reality and hopefully to re-evaluate his / her own concept of what one prefers to create as an individual and collective reality. The illusion of spiritual and emotion separation (the illusion that we are all separate, individual and self-sustaining entities that can determine our roles on Terra or in the Interlife totally without contact or influence with / from others) is a vital element here, and that common illusion is therefore “fertile ground” for artists. Here we artists and authors can play, provoke, prevaricate, entice, seduce and fool the audience to believe in us as a part of “themselves”, and then trigger the reader / viewer to consider the possibility that there might be (in fact) a miscommunication or misconception running loose … a sense of everyday reality that is inconsistent or which has consequences that one was never aware of.
Perhaps the most meaningful and interactive way to help another person to ‘wake up’ from their perceptual drowsiness is to enter into their everyday dreams and illusions (their banalities) and suddenly say “BOO !!!” Artists and authors who attempt to shock through their art with the blatantly obvious, often thus fail to explore and exploit the deeper, symbolic depths of the subconscious and the more mystical elements that make up our everyday and banal thoughts, activities, attitudes etc., and therefore are denied “personal access” by some viewers / readers who may consider the art to be too intellectual, too elitist, too directly confrontational, or too foreign. Sex and religion are often used today in art and literature as “shock elements”. It is not necessarily sex or religion which are provocative or interesting in themselves, but rather the unspoken and quietly accepted perceptions that we chain ourselves to unquestionably, and which can totally be set in chaos just by the artist and author changing or adding one simple element or context that we do not feel belongs in our reality-defining “picture”.
‘Extreme art and literature’ is thus not blatantly provocative in itself; it rather shows the audience the possible ramifications of acceptance, non-involvement, personal meanings and behaviour by confronting us with triggered or mixed in ‘extreme’ moments, and then lets the audience choose to begin its own personal creative life process of evalution and re-creation (if desired) … without commentary or guidance.
When I recently presented myself to Marina Abramovic as a “retired activist” she responded by asking me if an activist can ever be finished with activism. Of course, she is right. The process of rebellion is nothing more than one intermittent set of activities and actions in a constant redefining and assertion of the Self, both individually and collectively. Art is the ultimate expression of the process of rebellion. If an artist loses that quality, he/she “dies” in a certain way. My art and literature are not just extensions of me … they are my created persona: a sweet mixture of heaven and hell, with a pinch of mediocrity for flavoring.
Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway
(Reprinted from 2014, but my philosophy is still the same.)
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