This exciting young artist is touted as being the Next Big Thing on the British art scene. With his challenge to the heart of British cultural values – members of the Royal family displayed with full sleeve tattoos, iconic buildings such as Buckingham Palace or the Palace of Westminster depicted defaced by graffiti, Adams strikes at the heart of our cultural consciousness with his work.
In the same way that Banksy became the art world’s darling, filling the vacuum left by the end of the love affair with the YBAs, Adams is making a name for himself, aided by Wishbone Publishing, with his phenomenal output. Born in Plymouth, Adams was raised in South Africa, remaining there until the end of the apartheid era when he returned to these shores with the aim of becoming a tattoo artist. Little wonder then that his obsession with body art spills over into his work, evidenced in his ‘Tattoo Series’ where icons of royalty, music and the silver screen are depicted with awesome full sleeve and knuckle tattoos. The ubiquity of the tattoo in mainstream culture must play a part in his appeal to the mainstream art audience, but there is more to his art than purely capitalising on a social trend. His interest in printing and in graphic design – honed when working in the South West as a printer whilst experimenting with art in his spare time – are evident in the stylised way much of his work is presented. Combining media such as printing, collage, spray paint, screen prints and hand painted acrylics, his work has attracted attention from Christie’s, Rolls Royce, Vogue and GQ magazines with its rawness, energy and passion, but also with its accessibility and broad subject appeal.
But, like Banksy, Adams is certainly not a mainstream fine artist, and similarly, much of his work remains true to the roots of his style and influences. Where Banksy’s popularity came from the street through recognition of his graffiti and its subsequent elevation to ‘art’, Adams work is equally accessible and most importantly recognisable in its representation of things ‘normal’ that have been given Adams’ treatment which, in challenging their orthodoxy, cause the audience to consider their own response to these significant cultural icons. However, being able to picture ‘Harrods’ department store with graffitied windows and point of sale, somehow appeals to the British sense of humour and perhaps more importantly makes the audience question why the imagery is such a visual shock. To have the artistic vision to produce works that speaks on such an accessible level to the man / woman in the street and yet which so cleverly strikes at the heart of our culture is evidence of Adams’ skill and gives a big clue as to why his work is generating such excitement in the art – and wider – community. Fundamentally this is what makes JJ Adams so popular and undeniably an artist to invest in!
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