Image courtesy of Echo & Earl
These Days Foretold 2015 - Image courtesy the artist & BEERS London
Zim Zum 2016 - Image courtesy the artist & Angell Gallery
3RD FEBRUARY, 2017
It hasn't always been high fives, fist pumps & cash handshakes for Adam and his art. There was a time when his only customer was... his Dad. Not all bad news especially when your dad is a local hero who calls hugs "slices" and refer to lattes as "lardays". What a guy, but back to Ad. A lot has happened since then and it's been a wonderful thing to watch the doors open all around the globe for this close friend of ours. We love a good chat with our mate Ads and we thought you might too, so enjoy!
Some describe you as Adam "Lethal" Lee. Who is Adam Lee and what does he eat for breakfast?
Yes, I've always prided myself in my constant Danny Glover Lethal Weapon quoting.
Adam Lee is just another middle class white male, I guess. Which isn't all that easy as there's less and less of us around these days. I do, however, enjoy a coffee and a good bowl of porridge in the morning.
Some would say it's never easy to pursue what you love on a full time basis.
Describe the moment you decided to make art your main thing.
Well in fact in some ways I think it's harder to pursue a job everyday that you really dislike. It can be pretty soul destroying. Once I got over the challenge of doing something which doesn't necessarily earn a regular wage (and I'm still dealing with that only a daily basis!) I realized that it's a very freeing thing to commit to the pursuit of something you really love to do, exploring how you can make this thing work. I've always found that I'm just not suited to a "normal" job so I guess that helps. As crazy as it sounds I think I actually decided this was my path from quite a young age, maybe my last year of high school. I had no idea how I would make it work but I did know this was what I was meant to do and that I wouldn't do anything else as seriously as this.
Adam's Studio, Macedon Ranges - Image courtesy the artist
How do you maintain the drive to wake up every morning, create and put yourself out there time after time?
I guess it comes down to ideas. There's just too many ideas I'd like to explore. And the process of painting is, itself, such a wondrous thing which you never really get the handle of. It's a little elusive. I'm constantly excited by that. What I can and can't do with it. It becomes another space entirely, almost separate to the everyday world and yet innately connected to it. Time seems to slow or speed up. Over the years that experience of sinking myself into that process has become somewhat addictive. So it's a very rare thing to not feel like getting up to do it again. I'm quite certain that without my family grounding me I'd most likelybecome a hermit.
Who & what inspires you?
Lots of things. And they change depending on different times in my life. I read a lot so that seems to connect various ideas. All sorts of different artists from varying time periods. I'm currently obsessed with the paintings of R.B Kitaj from the 1970's and am also looking a lot at historical artists like the religious sculptor Tillman Riemenscnider at the moment.
Music is a constant one. It's rare to not have music on in the studio, the car, when I get home, in the shower, even falling asleep in ear phone some nights to relax my brain. It irritates my wife to no end and yet she ends up loving so much of the music I play. I consider that I'm doing her a service which goes largely unnoticed.
What's the biggest misconception about artists?
That they're scatterbrains, untidy, head in the clouds, up all night furiously dealing with moments of inspiration. Yes, there's a few like that. But most of the artists I know treat it very much like a job, working very disciplined hours with a huge amount of self motivation and organization required.
A Transfiguration 2016 - Image courtesy the artist & Angell Gallery
How does art make you feel?
Well it depends what type of art it is really. The most memorable moments where i was totally overwhelmed have actually been life changing. I'm not ashamed to admit there's been a couple of times I've actually shed tears in front of an artwork.
What has gone differently in life to how you thought it might?
Oh, not much really... Just every freakin' day! I learnt a while back not to plan too much or too far ahead. Just to try and roll with what almost always feels like a longer time frame with things than what I expected. It's a crucial part of maturity in life, in my opinion, to understand the seasons you need to journey through in order to arrive where you want to be. Sometimes it feels so slow and sometimes it's happening so fast you wish it would all slow down. And when you finally get there you realize it wasn't actually "the thing" you were after all along. It was the experiences along the way, the value of people, the person you had to become in order to move with the challenges which arise. It might all sound a little like a motivational speaker but I've learnt that that lesson is one of the most important because if you don't get it you will constantly feel stuck and you won't know why.
Name a fear or challenge that keeps you up at night?
I think most artists struggle with the same thing, which is self doubt and the fear of what other people think. That and spiders. Artists hate spiders.
What has been the most challenging time with your art so far?
Probably the years when no one was showing my work or buying it (except my Dad!) and I just had to keep making work, learning to make it for myself instead of any other reason.
In moments of self doubt, how do you build yourself back up?
I guess I remind myself why I started making artworks in the first place which was, as a very personal way of trying to understand my own experience of the world. And then I try and return to that in whatever I'm dealing with now.
For Signs, for Seasons, for Days & for Years (Watchmen) 2010 - Image courtesy the artist & STATION
How do you deal with having such good looking friends?
I married an amazingly beautiful and intelligent woman in order to keep me humble so I don't struggle too much with my good looking friends. (Glad we don't trip you up too much there Ads!)
What does an ideal weekend look like for the Lee family?
Coffee. Park. Scooters. Coffee. Pizza. In that order.
Paradiso Terrestre 2015 - Image courtesy the artist & STATION
A special work based on an old family photo of Adam's wife Laurine, standing in front of a waterfall at Yosemite National Park.
All. The. Feels.
I consider you my guru, my sage, my guiding light when it comes to new music recommendations & just last week you introduced us to the joyful, Emily King. Amazing. What's on repeat right now?
Lianne LaHavas. Anything she has put her hand to is a beaut. I've been loving "I Had a Dream That You Were Mine" by Hamilton Leithauser and Rostham. Anything by Andrew Bird. And over the last couple of years I've worked my way through the back catalogue of City and Colour, having come to the party late. Haven't heard a bad one yet.
We know you're have a serious collection of of books including your shelves of vintage & current National Geographic. Any good reads you can recommend?
Too many! I finally just finished Cormac McCarthy's "The Crossing", one of the best novels I've read in a while. I recently read Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay", which was pretty amazing. These days I tend to read a lot of kids books to my 4 year old daughter. There's a few shockers I won't mention but two recent beauties are "Lots" by Marc Martin and "We Found a Hat" by Jon Klassen. Both awesome.
What can we expect from the Adam Lee of the future?
I guess once advancements in bionic technologies really take off I'll have much bigger arms for carrying more stuff. Until then I guess I'll keep using the ones I've got.
I have a show opening at STATION in Melbourne this week, running until Feb 18. Then another new body of paintings at Volta Art Fair in New York in March with Angell Gallery and later in the year a show at BEERS Gallery in London. Busy times!
SNEAK PEEK  Carrying the Weight (after Bosch) 2016 - Image courtesy the artist & STATION
SNEAK PEEK  Adam's new work at STATION, South Yarra - Image courtesy the artist & STATION
If you're in Melbourne, put Adam's latest show on your must-see list. Even if you're not local, put it on the list if you can - we popped down last week to see it in person. Adam's work is truly a marvel. His latest show is a suite of 35 new works including a series of 27 smaller watercolours and a massive four metre long watercolour. Opening drinks are this Saturday 4th February at STATION, South Yarra.
Here's to many more conversations with the interesting & wonderful humans around us.
To love & adventure!
art, adamlee, artist, melbourneartist, melbournelife, adventure, bestlife, passion