Depicting the Fireiness of Anxiety. Studio Visit with Painter, Adam Lupton.
By Ewan Waddell

Depicting the Fireiness of Anxiety. Studio Visit with Painter, Adam Lupton.

Recently we caught up with painter Adam Lupton, a fresh import to the Berlin cultural scene from NYC. Adam’s unique approach is somewhat of an interplay between painting, printmaking and craft — which is why it’s particularly heartbreaking that you’re now viewing his works through a screen. The in-person viewing experience offers a delightful journey of textures, processes and styles contained within the same canvas that pixels simply don’t do justice. Last month, we paid a visit to Adam’s Moabit studio and learned from the artist himself about the evolution of his practice, the story of his colour palette, and his introspective subject matter.

Adam has a notably defined style. I was first curious about where this came from.

“I can be a very lazy painter. I kept coming across repetitive parts of paintings where I was like, ‘I don’t want to paint every single tree... So what if I just stamp them with a potato stamp?’ Like we did as kids in kindergarten. So I bought a potato and carved into it and made this tree stamp… I stamped it and I really liked the aesthetics. It brought me back to my MFA where I was doing monotype printmaking — you paint one plate, put it under the press and pull it off the other side. Things don’t come out exactly how you would plan — there’s always an element of chance involved.”

“That’s where I first started getting into printmaking and monotyping, and about two years ago took that into these transfer paintings. It’s starting now to feel comfortable; like I have a better grasp on the quote-unquote ‘language’ of what I’m saying or what I’m doing.”

 “I started experimenting with transferring entire paintings, and it just sort of grew into this structure that I have now. Like, this part gets stamped in this way and I can use these stamps in this way. It was sort of developing this notion of different kinds of paint applications with craft and printmaking.”

The colour palette is very restricted and specific. I wanted to know what the story was here.

“Years prior, people told me my colour palette can be all over the place — like really bright colours in one painting and muted colours in other paintings. And so I told myself like ‘ok, let’s just really limit yourself’. I’m somebody who really likes boundaries as well. I love monochrome paintings and very small-value range paintings.”

“And so there was this red-blue palette that I’d used in a couple of paintings and I really enjoyed it — so it just started there, and I haven’t felt any need to push outside of it. I think it allows me to push the boundaries of what these two colours can do and works well with what I’m trying to convey.”

What are you trying to convey? I wondered.

“The work deals a lot with my anxiety and my OCD. The palette started a bit more formally, but it’s sort of grown into this emotional dichotomy of colours; this warm cold, this sort of deadness and the fieriness of anxiety. So it’s sort of developed  into these emotional counterpoints on one another. Having only these two colours creates the level of friction that I feel in my anxiety and then try to bring across in the paintings.”

 “The stamps and transfers are very big in this anxiety, OCD idea of repetition. It’s the same thing printed over and over and over; like the same thought that comes up over and over and over again.”

“Texture and pattern are also a large part of the work. I’ll take wallpaper and paint on it and print the wallpaper over. And the clothing [in the paintings] will actually be from parts of sweaters that have a pattern on them that I’ll print over. So it’s using these real-world materials and bringing them into the painting so everything is mediated between the real world and the painting world — just like my reality is mediated through the OCD.”

I wondered if the artistic exploration of his psychological tensions is helpful in coming to terms with them.

“I don’t think there’s anything too cathartic for me. Maybe it makes the OCD worse, who knows? I mean, I don’t necessarily get relief from what these paintings are talking about, but the opposite is also true — if I’m not painting, I feel more anxious.”

A consistency in Adam’s work seems to be a lone figure in his compositions. I was curious how he would identify this figure.

“Versions of myself. A lot of the work clearly is personal and comes out of my OCD or what’s happening in my life or memories, so there’s no way to escape that. But they’re not me. They’re parts of me, I guess. Just distant enough where I’m not like ‘Oh, this is exactly me’, but not so far away that I’m like ‘Oh, this is a completely other person’.”

I asked if the scenes were imagined moments, or real, remembered moments.

“They’re both. There’s a George Toocker quote… ‘I am after painting reality impressed on the mind so hard that it returns as a dream, but I am not after painting dreams as such or fantasy’. So yes, they’re all real moments, but they’re all mental escapes. Sort of like how your mind can take a scenario and just run away with it. It’s a real scenario, but it’s also not real.”

Adam then reflected on the evolution of his practice and where he’s headed now.

“Looking back, it all makes sense. I can see how everything led to where I am now. This series is much more calm and poetic. Back then, I couldn’t have known that in a couple of years I’d be doing this, so I have no idea where it’s going to lead, but, once I’m there I’m sure I’ll be like ‘Oh yeah, that was obvious’. I’ll hopefully be expanding and growing, and I want to experiment more and find ideas of what could be done, I just don’t know how to make it there yet. But right now, I’m really happy with this.”

Thank you to Adam. You can find his links below.

Instagram -- Galerie Russi Klenner

Words by Ewan Waddell.

Photography by Ewan Waddell.


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