An Interview with Adnate

Adnate's entry for the Archibald prize
Adnate’s entry for the Archibald prize. Photo courtesy of Adnate.

Adnate‘s work is some of my absolute favourite in Melbourne right now and has been for a while. He has been hitting the streets hard lately, both solo and in multiple collaborations with AWOL Crew and others. Adnate started out painting graffiti and letters over 10 years ago. More recently he has moved into painting beautifully detailed characters, which also still incorporate some of his tags and lettering, which I love. His characters are not only amazingly detailed, most of them also have a story, which make them even more special. Last year Adnate had his solo show “Lost Culture” at RTIST Gallery and exhibited alongside the rest of the AWOL crew at their collective show “Fabric”. Adnate has also traveled the world painting and exhibiting in cities such as Barcelona, Mumbai, New York, Paris and Berlin.

I sat down with Adnate recently and this is what we talked about.

LM: I mentioned above that many of your characters have a story, which I learned by talking to you at some of your shows and while watching you paint. Tell us about some of them? 

Adnate: Most of the subjects in my paintings are of people that I have met and personally photographed. It’s important that I know the subjects as I am always trying to communicate certain emotions and stories through my portraits.

With the aboriginal portraits, which I feel are my strongest, I spent the last years getting to know local and national Indigenous Australians. It has been a crazy journey meeting and learning about these incredible people, particularly the current and past climate of their survival.

Photo courtesy of Adnate

LM: Apart from your solo and AWOL group shows, give us a recap of what you got up to in 2012? 

Adnate: Last year was the first year that I went bigger and higher with my portraits. It’s a great feeling being elevated that high in the air whilst painting and although I only managed two walls on this scale for 2012 they were definitely a highlight. When painting on the ground you get all sorts of distractions but being up high it’s just you and a few birds (one almost flew into my head recently).

I had some great opportunities to travel around Australia too. I got to travel through the western desert and met some of the oldest indigenous Australians alive. You wouldn’t believe what’s out there, that’s what you call “real country”.

Photo courtesy of Adnate

LM: I read in a recent interview on artshub your work is “Inspired by Renaissance artists such as Da Vinci and Caravaggio, Adnate taught himself classical chiaroscuro techniques to communicate drama and emotion in his subjects”. This is quite an evolution from tagging and letters, what brought about this change in style? 

Adnate: I worked on making my own style for 10 years and it was time to try something new. So I flipped my work on its head and began trying to reach a level of portrait realism that’s second to a photo. I’ve never been a big sketcher, so when I was painting letters I did so in a free flowing manner from the beginning to the end. Now with portraits I reference a photo, spending just as much time studying the photo as I do the painting. There is always a point in which I battle with the painting and the photo to make things as realistic as possible. It’s a completely different method of painting that I am used to and I think that’s what I love about it. It’s important to stay stimulated and challenge myself wherever possible.

Photo courtesy of Adnate

LM: Tell me about some of the other work you do using your art? 

Adnate: Over the years I’ve done regular youth work using graffiti art as a way to sway them off drugs and hard crime. I’m currently doing most of this now in a Juvenile Prison that houses the most volatile and “at risk” young boys and girls in the state. It’s an awesome job and the best part is getting to know these guys, they all have the craziest stories to tell and its really rewarding when you get to make their day. Plus there are some really talented writers and artists in there, which is definitely inspiring.

Photo by David Russell
Photo by David Russell

LM: Tell me about your background. How did you get into graff? 

Adnate: Well I didn’t grow up on a train line, so my first memories were being a little gromit skater and studying all the designs on the clothes and decks. When I hit high school I begun to travel around Melbourne on the trains, in particular the Hurstbridge Line and I got to see all the WCA productions. This blew my mind and I quickly dropped off from skating and graff became my life.

Adnate & Shida. Photo courtesy of Adnate.
Adnate & Shida. Photo courtesy of Adnate.

LM: What does your name mean? 

Adnate: ad·nate [ad-neyt] adjective Biology: grown fast to something; congenitally attached.

I get asked this all the time and to be honest I didn’t choose it for the meaning but simply for the letter structure. I was 16 when I choose it from a dictionary and I loved it because it was a word that gave me lots of kicks and flares with my tags.

LM: What do you enjoy most about the whole process? The creation, the night missions, abandos etc? 

Adnate: It’s the act of painting that I love, particularly spray painting. The feeling of slapping or blasting paint out is the best part. I actually love doing throw ups but I rarely ever get the chance to do them. I’ve never felt bored, there’s always a bit of adrenaline that kicks in when painting that can keep me going for hours.

Adnate and Does. Photo courtesy of Adnate.
Adnate and Does. Photo courtesy of Adnate.

LM: Which artists are you into at the moment? Local and International.

Adnate: There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in Australia right now. My crew AWOL are always producing work that blows me away. It’s been great to paint with guys like Shida and Fintan Magee recently; they’re really pushing it. Brisbane really seems to pump out some great artists for such a small city. Look at Sofles for example!

Internationally I’ve always been into DMV/DaMentalVaporz and the European scene in general. Loveletters are awesome, they always hold down such an awesome graff style in these highly developed conceptual productions.

LM: Where do you work from and what is your studio space like? 

Adnate: I work from my studio, which is messy, full and disorganised. It’s a solo space, which I like, as I don’t get much time for big sessions so it’s highly productive. Otherwise I’d get distracted by parties and getting loose, which I’ve experienced in many group studios.

Adnate, Slicer and Itch
Adnate, Slicer and Itch. Photo courtesy of Adnate.

LM: What has been the highlight (or highlights) of your career to date?

Painting around the world in cities like Mumbai, Barcelona and New York. In particular the abandoned Nazi and Russian Soviet buildings in Berlin. Favourite show would be the AWOL Crew ‘Fabric’ Exhibition.

LM: What’s coming up for Adnate in 2013?

Adnate: Soon I’ll be heading off to Europe to paint in different jams such as Step in the Arena and Roskilde Festival. It’s been some years since I’ve been in Europe and I have a feeling this trip is gonna be action packed.

This year will be the first in a while where I’ve not booked a solo show and I’m pumped to have the time to work on projects like the Archibald and others. So far things are looking busy!

Photo courtesy of Adnate
Photo courtesy of Adnate

Photos courtesy of Adnate and by David Russell