Cover of the new monograph on Bill Lynch by Ridinghouse.
It's rare when a publication comes along that reveals a nearly unknown artist while simultaneously providing a comprehensive survey of their best work. The new publication on painter Bill Lynch by UK publisher Ridinghouse took me totally by surprise as I had no previous knowledge about Lynch and had never seen his work.
His paintings were usually executed in oil on found pieces of plywood. The work surface is rugged, but the composition is very refined. In his studies, Lynch reached back into the history of Chinese painting and its influence is obvious. He used a considered touch, often with a dry brush, incorporating the grain and knots of the carefully chosen wood surfaces.
Bill Lynch died in 2013, relatively unknown to most, except for a few of his friends such as Verne Dawson, whose interview with Matthew Higgs is included in the book, along with an essay by Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith and writings by Lynch. The multitude of quality images, along with the very informative text present a clear picture of an artist that the art community should hear more about. Much of the time I feel that a good art book is aesthetically pleasing and informative—a work of art itself. This publication fulfills that requirement in full, but I also found myself feeling thankful that Ridinghouse strove to bring this artist to light by taking on this project in the first place.
I first came across the work of Bill Adams back in 2013 when it was posted online in a group exhibition at the summer location of Martos Gallery in East Marion, New York. The show was organized by Bob Nickas, with pieces located both inside the structure and outside on the grounds of the property. Strategically hung in a closet in one of the bedrooms were about a dozen drawings by Bill, small works in ballpoint pen and watercolor that at first glance resembled notepad doodles, but carried a strange sense of sophistication in their simplicity.
Even Adams’ paintings have this same wonderfully sketchy sensibility. His oils on canvas are loosely figurative and have just enough touch without seeming overworked. But there’s also some sculptural work too, onerous little pieces in clay depicting cats, heads, etc., which seem to augment and complement his drawings.
The body of work Adams has produced thus far is rich and varied with an apparent ease of execution. There’s also a hint of narrative in many of the pieces and it makes me want to look closer, to maybe catch the message or story line that’s being implied, even though I may not. It’s these factors that lead me to believe that Bill Adams is an artist who has yet to be more widely known, but most certainly will be in the future.
PB: What motivates you to make artwork ?
BA: First, thank you. And as for motivation and influence: Frankly I'm not entirely sure? A show is always good. Materials are a turn-on. I'm Still exploring color and form. Still motivated by my instincts or impulses. Still looking for the comedy... Anything that challenges my preconceptions is a motivation. Other artists, friends, such as myself, who are serious in their practices, are hugely motivating.
The action of communication; even the movement toward that action is an incentive. I think part of the artist’s job is to find, conjure, and even pretend motivation—anything, and everything to get into the studio, to start. Ultimately, I suppose that chasing down an image and transforming it into something else is still the thing. Perhaps it is a permanent feeling of disquiet that is pushing my practice in the studio.
On the other hand, I count "play" or "fun" or simple curiosity as prime motivators. And at the other end of the spectrum, the disaster that is Washington is a kind of inverted motivation. And finally, the bits of life that make up the everyday. Simple stuff like music, film, books, dogs, water, sun, moon, coffee, tennis, baseball, love—it all gets in there.
PB: How are things going in the studio and what’s informing or influencing your work lately?
BA: Things are going well in the studio.
Informing my work—politics. It always has, but it's edged its way into the foreground. My recent drawings have dark undercurrents, a plague-like atmosphere featuring anthropomorphic creatures staring dead eye at the viewer, holding their ground, the world roiling, a dissenter refusing to budge.
And the sculptures are coming along.
Whereas the drawings depict solitary figures, the sculptures merge animal and human, sometimes in groups. Although there is the occasional solitary duck, cat, etc., as you mentioned.
The paintings are using the information culled from the drawings and sculptures and mashing it up. Anything can happen. I don't set up hard and fast rules.
PB: As far as mediums are concerned, you work in ballpoint, oil, clay, etc., are there any other materials that have caught your attention and may or may not find their way into your pieces?
BA: I have discovered lots of new materials in the past three years on account of the three-dimensional work. Here's a list: plaster gauze, a variety of found woods, cement, sea glass, red clay harvested on the eastern shore of Long Island (I bag it and haul it back to the studio), old shirts for cloth, armature wire. And if the outdoors can be thought of as material, then I confess to having left drawings and sculptures outside to be burnished by the elements.
PB: How about other artists? Whose work do you consider remarkable or challenging?
BA: So many remarkable artists. Lately, Fischli and Weiss, for their simple humanity and sharp humor. Their position as artists has always struck me as super modern and sly. And there is beautiful scale that gives the work breadth. Two vast, playful, impudent minds, restless and resourceful, and funny—laugh out loud funny.
So many, many, more...
PB: What's on your reading/looking/listening list lately?
BA: I just finished Haruki Murakami's first two novellas. And I am currently reading Anne Truitt's Daybook, which is mind-blowing for its painful precision of language and insight. What a great artist. And I'm reading Octavia Butler’s novel: Kindred. I listen to music every day of my life. Lately I'm binging on Todd Rundgren and Miles Davis, and the very early iteration of Fleetwood Mac, when they were a straight ahead blues band with Peter Green on lead guitar. Besides baseball, I'm watching the leftovers and show out of England called Chewing Gum, which is the funniest bawdiest bad ass comedy show I've seen in a long time. The lead actor is the creator of the show, and she is a super comic genius.
PB: What’s coming up for your work in the near future?
BA: This summer I'm in a few shows in New York and I'm just coming off a year where I had like four shows, so I'm trying to bang out some new work, but I'm slow. Also this summer I'll be working with porcelain for the first time, which I'm looking forward to. Also, I'm toying with the idea of bronze or steel for the sculptures. But also I'm looking forward to some time out of the studio because there is water all around me and when the weather breaks for good, I want to be in it.