Tom Adair

 

An artwork from Tom Adair has more to it than meets the eye; a closer peer reveals layers of paint, neon, and sculptural CNC foam. 

Words: Emma-Kate Wilson | Photography: Tom Adair

 
Tom Adair in his Melbourne studio. Photo - James Geer.

Tom Adair in his Melbourne studio. Photo - James Geer.

 

Tom Adairs's art practice began early ⁠— from a young age, he was drawing, painting and building in every spare moment. But, as a country-kid living an hour out of Melbourne, it wasn't until he was late into high school — discovering graffiti on buildings and down the side of trains — that the art career began. After ten years of a somewhat unconventional art practice, serendipitously, he found himself getting his first studio space — only after being busted by the police.

I remember seeing all these amazing colourful and stylised words emblazoned on the sides of buildings. It had an impact on me — and kick-started my after-dark activities of illegal graffiti.
 
Desert Los Vista,  2019 by Tom Adair.

Desert Los Vista, 2019 by Tom Adair.

 

The artist also credits himself as a photographer, as well as a painter. Once he's got the perfect shot, a process begins of digitally altering and editing. Tom then uses a projector to cast a shadow to add the airbrush layer, meticulously adding detail. The designs also incorporate neon or CNC foam, offering sculptural depth or literal electricity of neon. These elements add texture and depth, while the mixed-medium explore a premise of physicality versus reality. 

 
Gwynne Street, 2017  by Tom Adair, photographed at Jardan.

Gwynne Street, 2017 by Tom Adair, photographed at Jardan.

 
The graffiti mentality and skills are still with me today when I approach my artistic practice… the ability to paint with immediacy and accurately has been translated seamlessly into my use with the airbrush.
 
Golden Girl (CMYK), 2019  by Tom Adair.

Golden Girl (CMYK), 2019 by Tom Adair.

Hawk, 2018 (edition of 10)  by Tom Adair.

Hawk, 2018 (edition of 10) by Tom Adair.

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Tom's experience as Homeware Manager at Jardan exposed him to some of Australia's best designers — resulting in a strong influence of architecture in the artworks. Travel and fashion also play, compositionally, into Tom's work. The travel component is clear from the Californian suburbian architecture that runs through the narrative of the pieces. Colour in the artworks draw on Tom's fashion background from his studies at RMIT, and his own fashion label, Restinpeace, 2004.

The neon sections I overlay on my work are highlights, important details or forms of the painted artwork that lies beneath it.

Tom tributes new wave artist, Howard Arkley as a source for influence, who Tom shares, was "an artist that was famous for his hyper colour airbrushed houses." From his own influential artworks, the artist remembers Polar Cones, for interior designer Matt Woods for The Rooftop Q in Sydney. The palm mirage inspired work, Private Oasis, which was the hero piece for his second exhibition at Nanda\Hobbs. And SoBe, which marked the start of his 3D sculptural pieces.  

 
Untitled CNC, 2019  by Tom Adair.

Untitled CNC, 2019 by Tom Adair.

Yarra St House, 2019  by Tom Adair.

Yarra St House, 2019 by Tom Adair.

 
The architecture I depict is a motif for the relationship between what you see from the outside versus reality… In this way, my work changes depending on where you view it from.

Architecture and suburbia are often depicted throughout Tom's mixed-media artworks. The private and public life reveals multiple layers in humankind — how we perceive others, looking outwards, or ourselves, looking in. For Tom Adair's artwork, these layers pull the viewer in for a closer look and have us mystified at the levels of intensity and artistic skill. 

 
Bushland Rose, 2019  by Tom Adair.

Bushland Rose, 2019 by Tom Adair.

Palm Shade,  2019 by Tom Adair.

Palm Shade, 2019 by Tom Adair.

 
We’re so quick to perceive people in a certain way because of the house they own or the car they drive. When we (the viewer) get a little bit closer, the perception (or image) deteriorates, and its imperfections are exposed.
 

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Tom Adair