Our latest exhibition in the gallery space here in Colyer-Fergusson is a mesmerising exploration of portraiture by Canterbury artist, Adam De Ville.
When out one day presents a series of ten images reflecting Adam’s interest in exploring the human condition, brought vividly to the canvas in an array of arresting paintings that pushes through the space between viewer and subject, looking to capture the essence of the moment.
My work is the result of how I see the things around me. As well as portraiture, I paint landscapes and cityscapes. Recurring themes of displacement and belonging colour my portrait work especially. I always aim to capture a moment and something of the inner life of the subject. I don’t have any conscious theme for painting as I paint; themes are only attributed afterwards. it’s very much an unconscious process; I paint what I want at the time, the things around me. But the work can therefore be said to be reflexive in that my inner life is the guide. In the case of portraiture, I am painting my state at the time.
Based in Canterbury, Adam De Ville is a self-taught artist exhibiting both nationally and internationally, most recently with the Royal Cambrian Academy of Arts (Award Winner), Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (Award Winner), Wales Contemporary (Award Winner), Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (Award Winner), Pastel Society, ING Discerning Eye as well as galleries in London, Dublin, and Paris.
Adam’s work can also be found on Instagram at adamleedeville. His work is currently being shown at the Lilford Gallery in Canterbury, The Doorway Gallery, London Contemporary Art Gallery, Art5 Brighton and Queen Street Gallery, Neath. One of Adam’s portraits will also feature as the cover of the programme for the concert by the University Cecilian Choir and Consort at the end of March.
The exhibition is free to view, open during the day until 9pm; there is wheelchair access, and the images are on display until May.
I’m sitting in the café late on a dark winter afternoon, to talk with creative powerhouse, artist, actor and writer Adam De Ville about his Blue series, one of which is appearing on the cover of the programme for the concert in the Cathedral Crypt by the University Chamber Choir in March, for its performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. The music is a masterpiece of the Baroque period, a dramatic and vivid setting of the thirteenth-century hymn to the Virgin Mary’s suffering during Christ’s crucifixion; Adam’s painting (itself called simply ‘Blue’) plays with ambiguity, with uncertainty, with questions of identity, the unknown figure’s possible story and the implication of her suffering.
Sitting there with a shock of silvery hair giving him a distinguished aspect, his gaze direct, there’s a contradiction almost between the committed energy he has for art, his fierce creativity, and the carefully-paced, gently articulated way he talks about it; it’s as though each sentence is carefully weighed, measured for its value in articulating ideas which are important to him. No words are wasted; you are left with the sense that these things have been a long time in consideration, yet they flow readily into our free-wheeling conversation, as the sky outside darkens and the coffee sits forgotten amongst the papers.
Photographs of the Blue series are spread between us across the table-top as we talk. It was painted eighteen months ago, with two distinct aspects – one reflecting Adam’s passion for history, with two works referencing the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the other his fascination with technology. ‘I love exploring technology; does it give us an identity ?’ he ponders. ‘I’m always thinking about how the elderly generation uses technology, and how young people engage with it; does it create gaps, or fill them ?’ He launches into a story about sitting in a restaurant recently, watching a young couple eating, talking with each other and at the same time conducting other conversations on their mobile phones; multi-tasking across different streams with complete ease. ‘I wonder how my own children will use technology in ten, twenty years’ time.’
‘A lot of my work is about looking back and imagining forwards, whilst also embracing the transitory nature of life. I paint to try and get home, to anchor myself in moments on paper.’ The striking sequence of images in the Blue series reflects his interest in the colours and tones buried within that single hue; it began during a three-week illness, during which he picked up a sketchbook and began to paint – but only in blue. I asked him about his focus on a single colour and what it meant. ‘I was thinking about age, about being at different stages of life; and, on some level, how we deal with ‘the blues,’ with depression.’ When painting, the images are usually done in a single sitting, although the preparation and thought-process preceding them takes considerably longer.
A recurrent theme in Adam’s work is the idea of belonging and loss. ‘I’m fascinated by the idea of coming home to a home that doesn’t really exist. Life is transitory; you set up a home, and an identity which disappears when you die.’ His paintings have titles like Memory of Bern or Plans for Birmingham, as though he’s trying to pin down on the paper something elusive, to capture that fleeting moment that exists either only in the memory or in a brief vision of what might be.
Adam’s musical interests include the hypnotic soundscapes of Arvo Pärt and Gavin Bryars; Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten formed the sonic backdrop whilst he was painting ‘Blue,’ and Bryars’ mesmerising The Sinking of the Titanic inspired ‘Preludes (where you go I go),’ a haunting sequence of images.
I ask him what he’s working on at the moment. ‘I’m exploding!’ he says, eyes alight with real relish; ‘long may it last!’ His newest images explore the urgent, street-art energies of graffiti; other paintings explore a more vibrant world of colours in various cityscapes – Paris, the Montmartre district, Birmingham’s brutalist architecture from the 70s; there are also paintings of Havana – all places connected with Adam’s life, fragments of his own history. Suddenly we’re transported from the darkness-bound neon glow of the café to Cuba, as he recounts a brilliant (and hilarious) story behind one of the Havana images, involving his acting in a commercial dressed as a pork-chop, a moment which sounds utterly surreal but which informs some of his most energetic painting.
For all his gently-weighted manner, it’s impossible not to be invigorated by Adam’s considerable enthusiasm for his subject, his looking at things from different angles, for making connections and exploring ideas. As we leave to go, each to his own home – after our conversation about identity, about belonging, I’m no longer quite sure what that may mean – a little of the neon glare seems to fade from the café as he ventures out into the dark; but it resides, fiercely, in the images still spread on the table in front of me.
Adam’s work is currently in exhibitions at Store Street Gallery, London, Lilford Gallery, Canterbury and Flux 2018 at the Chelsea College of Arts, London.
Blue will be exhibited in the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery from Friday 16 February to Friday 9 March, during normal opening hours: admission is free, and there is disabled access. The individual painting, ‘Blue,’ will be shown during the Chamber Choir’s Crypt Concert performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater on Friday 2 March.
A special event next week brings together an exhibition in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery with live music for two pianos on Friday 2 December.
Preludes (where you go I go) by artist Adam de Ville returns to the gallery to see out the Autumn term in a new form, and to mark its re-emergence, you are invited to view the images accompanied by a live performance of Gavin Bryars’ My First Homage, for two pianos, performed by Dan Harding and Matthew King.
The exhibition, created especially for the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, is Adam’s response to Bryars’ piece, Sinking of the Titanic, and this event offers the opportunity to experience the images during a live performance of Bryars’ equally meditative homage to jazz pianist, Bill Evans, as a live soundscape. Adam will also be present at the event, and will be available for a ‘Meet the Artist’ session afterwards.
The exhibition will be open throughout December; the viewing together with the live performance begins at 1.10pm and will last twenty minutes; admission is free, details online here.
We’re delighted to announce that the latest exhibition in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery is now open!
Created especially for the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, Preludes (where you go, I go) by visual artist Adam de Ville is a series of images in response to Sinking of the Titanic by composer Gavin Bryars, a haunting meditation on the idea of what happens to the music played by the band as the great ship sank.
Adam’s exhibition imagines the same effect happening to paint and paper in a sequence of images capturing particular moments before, during and after the event. Based on accounts, personal stories and surviving artefacts, the series is a moving contemplation of the human side to one of history’s great tragedies.
The exhibition is showing in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery until Friday 4 November during normal opening hours, and admission is free. Find out more about Adam here.
Colyer-Fergusson Gallery is delighted to be hosting Preludes (where you go, I go), a new exhibition by Kent-based visual artist, actor and illustrator Adam de Ville next month.
Adam’s new exhibition, created especially for Colyer-Fergusson, takes inspiration from Gavin Bryars’ piece, Sinking of the Titanic, in which the composer imagines what the music the band was playing as the ship sank might have sounded like as the band played during the sinking, and what happened to the music as it continued to reverberate in the water.
“I hope to carry this poetic notion through, imagining how the paint might react under water both physically and poetically,” Adam observes, “with the preludes being eye-witness accounts before, during and after, with the ‘after’ forming a prelude to history, to the passing of living memory and our continuing / changing ‘imagining’ of the event, like the music and paint, transformed by the depths of the ocean, of time.”
From Bach to Debussy, the prelude as a musical form has appealed to composers, both for its concision as well as for its imaginative potential; the iconic collection by Bach exploring equal temperament, or the evocative dreamscapes of Debussy’s two books of piano preludes, the prelude offers both discipline as well as imaginative possibilities; Adam’s exhibition explores both concepts, inspired by Bryars’ music. The hauntingly beautiful strains of Bryars’ moving piece find echo in Adam’s evocative images, which hover on the cusp of dissolving, disappearing.
From May to August this year, Adam was the Armchair Artist-in-Residence at the Beaney Museum in Canterbury, for which he also created Something Between Us, an instillation exploring the life of the physical book, funded by Canterbury Arts Council; he has also had exhibitions at the Stark Gallery and the Beaney Front Room. His illustrations accompanied the book Richmond Bigbottom, a fairy-tale for children published in 2015.
Find out more about Adam here, and about his public theatre / art installation work here. Preludes (where you go, I go) will be on display at Colyer-Fergusson Gallery on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus from 24 September – 4 November; admission is free.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.