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Song by Gramatik: Chillaxin' By The Sea
Video by: Tomas Alfredo Valladares
Portland-based artist and painter Adam Friedman opens Esoterica at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 7, at One Grand Gallery, 1000 S.E. Burnside St. But before he leads us into a world where ice-capped mountains meet starry night skies in the middle of an arctic ocean, we felt the need to ask Adam about his childhood, interests, books, ideas, lifestyle and methodology.
So, here it goes:
OG: What were you like as a kid?
AF: I was a nice kid. Active, adventurous. Honestly, I’d like to think that I’m not that different as an adult. Just more responsible and focused.
OG: When did you know you wanted to become an artist?
AF: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mom was a talented artist when she was young, but never pursued it. She had artwork of hers around and lots of old art supplies for me to play with. She was a single mom and we struggled financially, so I always thought I would use my creativity to get a “real” job. Maybe be an architect or designer. When I got into college I realized that I couldn’t stand the idea of sitting in front of a computer all day, every day. Art was and is the only thing that truly keeps me centered and sane. It’s always been my form of meditation.
OG: What are influences for your work?
AF: The great outdoors. Epic landscapes. Other artists, especially the ones I know. I’m lucky to have so many talented friends and seeing how hard they work is really inspirational. I read a lot. Mystery and the cosmos. Music. Love. Life in general.
OG: How do you set the scene for the landscapes in your painting?
AF: It’s a mix between planning and allowing the piece to go in the direction it needs to. My work is always conceptually driven, so it all stems from an idea. Those ideas are influenced by everything in the question above. I religiously keep a sketchbook. I’ll work out a bunch of quick sketches for a painting. They’re not very developed, but help me with composition, etc. From there, I choose one I like and start painting. Transferring a 2”x2” sketch to a 6’ panel means that the paintings always look pretty different than the original drawings.
OG: I love the ice, oceans and blue colors in your newest works...why these colors?
AF: For this show, I’ve been working with a very specific theme. I’ve been painting landscapes or landforms inside or breaking out of museum vitrines (glass boxes on pedestals). The paintings reference our compartmentalization of nature… and the human arrogance in thinking we can fully comprehend and/or control it. Thus denying its overwhelming mystery. There are a lot of references to science. And I love science, but I think it generally has a very cold way of looking at nature. So the color palette for this show and body of work is really cool.
OG: How does reading influence your art? What do you like to read?
AF: Reading plays a huge part in my process. It helps a lot for researching and learning more about things I’m interested in. But a good writer also has a way of putting something inexplicable into words. My paintings are often titled after direct quotes from my reading. Edward Abbey, Barry Lopez, John McPhee… are some of my favorites, but the list goes on and on. I love to read about an individual’s or culture’s approach to and understanding of the natural world and cosmos.
OG: Seeing your studio, your process seems so exact, how do you mix precision with expression?
AF: I practiced as a printmaker for many years. Printmaking is very exact, and that has definitely transferred over into the way I paint. I think one can definitely find expression through precision. But I also try to combine looser, gestural handling of paint into my process.
OG: What mediums do you use?
AF: Acrylic and wood
OG: Where do you like to go explore in Oregon?
AF: I love going east. I’ve always been drawn to the desert. The ocean too… But the ocean is basically the largest desert in the world. At least on the surface. My wife and I camp a lot. Really, this whole state is amazingly geologically diverse. I haven’t really been anywhere that I didn’t like!
OG: Do you like living in the city?
AF: I do. But living in Portland doesn’t really feel like living in the city to me. Unless you live right down town, Portland is pretty residential. It’s a really easy place to live, which cannot be said for many “big” cities. We moved up here from SF, and the challenges of everyday life (going to the grocery store, parking, theft) don’t feel as heavy or prevalent here. I love the west coast in general because no matter what city you’re in… It’s only a short drive to somewhere natural and awe inspiring.
OG: What is painting to you? An escape? An exploration?
AF: As I mentioned above, it’s meditative. It’s also very expressive. I can work through ideas and concepts in a productive manner. It’s really the only way I know how to try to contribute something meaningful to this world while simultaneously keeping myself sane.
OG: If you could go live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
AF: Hard to answer that question because there are so many amazing places. Places that I’ve never been. I grew up in San Diego, in the ocean every day of my life…. So after being in Portland for a few years now… probably somewhere by the beach, where it’s warm and I can surf and swim every day.
-- Interview by: Cari E. Hachmann, journalist at One Grand Gallery
One Grand Gallery presents ESOTERICA // by Adam Friedman.