One look at Michael Adamson’s paintings and you know he’s an optimist. His landscape based abstract creations are joyful and uplifting. He says his work is “a refuge for the psyche.” Join me as I visit Michael at his Toronto studio.
ARTIST: Michael Adamson
Over the past 13 years, Michael Adamson has emerged as one of the most talented abstract painters in Canada. Soon after graduating from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, in 1997, he was receiving critical acclaim for his work. Gary Michael Dault, then art critic at the Globe and Mail newspaper, described him as “a young painter seriously worth watching.”
He has not disappointed. Michael’s work has been exhibited in Toronto, London, Tokyo and Kelowna. Hailed as a wunderkind , Michael remains one of the few university educated artists who is highly successful and critically acclaimed.
He greets me in his midtown Toronto studio with coffee in hand. His friendly laid back manner masks the inner drive which compels him to work seven days a week. It seems his work is an all-consuming passion. When he’s painting, he likens it to being a hummingbird. “The way I do it — it’s a fleeting total commitment.” He remains intent and focused on the task at hand. Michael readily admits, “I’m highly addicted to the payoff of seeing a new painting and showing a new painting.”
Though he’s used to the spotlight, he isn’t eager to have his photo taken — preferring to let his work speak for itself. His self-portrait as a student (above) will have to do. Still boyish at 40, the artist is an extrovert whose words have a poetic feel as he reflects on his work and life. He says,”very few great artists have had families. You have to make a commitment to yourself. I’m willing to do that.”
A series of paintings waiting for pick-up at Michael’s studio
Holiday Beach – 1999
Michael has an opportunity to flex his philosophical muscle and share his informed opinions when he lectures students at the University of Toronto. He says a lot has changed in the art world over the last 10 years – especially in Canada and he’s perplexed that so many fine arts students don’t end up as working artists.
Reflecting on his work, he says, “a really successful piece of art exists in its own world, but is applicable to everything.” His paintings are an invitation to experience the world through his eyes. He explains, “I feel lucky to have been born near the end of the 20th century. Lucky to be born in Canada and lucky to have had all the experiences I’ve had.” His positive outlook comes through in his light and bright work.
The Mexico Game – 2006
He was also fortunate early on to get two very good pieces of advice. He says, “my Dad told me if you treat it like a job you’re likely to have more success.” Another close friend said, “follow your bliss.” He has taken those words to heart, as he’s travelled extensively and maintained a vigorous work schedule.
Blaze – 2009
Golden Days 2009
Green return 2006
You may have seen his work featured on Sarah Richardson’s show Design Inc. They’re longtime friends who went to the same public school in Toronto. Sarah has used Michael’s paintings in her office and home.
Sarah’s office (above) and living room (below)
After spending a year in England in 2007, he returned to Canada and rediscovered the northern Ontario of his youth. His parents owned and operated a well-known girls camp on Lake Kashagawigamog. He has many warm memories of summers spent at the lake. Now, he refuels by heading to a rustic area just south of Algonquin Park –cultivating that part of his life which he’d left behind in his late teens. There, he can completely unplug. In the northern bush, he has no audience and he loves it.
Good Night All Round 2006
Although Michael started at ECUAD studying photography, he shifted to painting by third year. He initially experimented with different forms — gravitating to his current style after noticing the canvas he was using had a weft and weave. So he started to produce works which mirrored the nature of his canvas through the use of grids. In the book, Michael Adamson Paintings (2008) – Open Country, noted art historian and curator Joan Murray writes, “If Adamson has a painterly signature, it takes the form of little buttons, nipples, points and discs of bright paint added – like wax seals or painterly push-pins.”
The cover art on Open Country features The Package – 2008
Joan and Michael collaborated to produce this stunning book which features more than 200 images from the first ten years of his career. Michael became a publisher when he formed Panda Group Canada – raising the start-up capital by selling his paintings and fundraising. He describes the Panda group as a “passion driven moonlight operation.”
Outlook – 2008
Today Michael exhibits his work at the Moore Gallery in Toronto and Sopa Fine Arts in Kelowna B.C. In Open Country, Moore Gallery owner Ron Moore says he took on Michael Adamson in 2001 because he was intrigued with the high quality of his work and its wonderful colour. “He’s influenced by the modernists and captured a lot of what giants in Canadian art have done in the past, but he applied it in his own manner. He’s no copycat.”
When Michael unwrapped this painting, I couldn’t take my eyes off it
While we were chatting, assorted deliveries arrived, massive paintings were carried out to a waiting truck, the phone was ringing, and a client popped by. It was probably a typical morning. Michael works hard to make it all happen. The upside is he can start or stop work whenever he wants. And despite his long hours, that may be the ultimate freedom.
To learn more about Michael Adamson’s work check out his websites here and here. Michael’s work is exhibited at Moore Gallery and Sopa Fine Arts. photos courtesy of Michael Adamson and Panda Group Canada.