JJ Adams transforms celebrity images and iconic landmarks in his own inimitable and rebellious style. His bold and confident mixed media work has seen him rapidly become on the UK's most talked about contemporary artists.
Using a range of new and mixed media in his work, Adams blurs the boundaries of traditional and digital art. He is equally adept at producing acrylic on canvas masterpieces as he is at creating thought-provoking messages through photography or digital software.
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JJ Adams has drawn upon his childhood and adolescent experiences to inspire his distinctive artistic style. Born in Plymouth with a baptist minister for a father, Adams moved to Cape Town at a young age, developing something of a defiant temperament in response to his strict upbringing. Here, he spent much of his youth around the studio of Derric van Rensburg, a landscape artist widely regarded as one of South Africa's best. Imitating the work of his mentor, whilst also drawing on his budding interest in tattoos, rock music and street art, Adams develops a vibrant, graphic approach to painting.
While studying graphic design at college, Adams worked as an apprentice at a popular tattoo studio in central Cape Town, as well as a crew member for internationally touring bands coming to Cape Town following the end of Apartheid. He returned to Britain with his family in the late nineties, and hoped to transfer his skills into work as a full-time tattoo artist. His dream wasn't to be-indeed, Adams found himself intimidated after meeting some of the mainstays of London's tattoo scene-and instead Adams found himself struggling to make a living working in Camden Market.
After giving up on becoming a tattoo artist, Adams returned to Plymouth where he studied commercial printing at the Plymouth College of Art and Design. He completed his studies and soon after launched his own commercial sign printing business, Adams continued experimenting with art in his spare time. A Plymouth gallery sold a number of Adams' works over time, so in 2009 he decided to take the plunge and return to London to give a life in art a serious try.
In 2011, he caught the eye of numerous collectors when he produced a series of images of tattooed celebrities, inspired by his training as a tattooist. Adams took iconic black and white images of celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando and digitally adorned each with intricate inkwork, giving them elaborate sleeve tattoos. This series of work has seen him gain celebrity patronage from the likes of Guns N Roses guitarist Slash, and has led to his art making appearances on numerous TV shows. His recent work has also seen him return to his childhood love of the Star Wars films, which has led to a number of the franchise's cast and crew buying his art.
Adams' work has appeared in Vogue and GQ magazine, whilst he has also created images for commercial clients such as Rolls Royce and Bang & Olufsen. He's also heavily involved in charity fundraising through the sale of his work. He raised more than £5,000 for the Willow Foundation through the auctioning of his work in 2014, as well as £3,000 for the British Liver Trust two years later.
Adams has described his work as a simple formula of combining new and old. As well as using traditional painting methods, he also uses spray paint, screen printing, collage, digital composite and photography. Beyond the inspiration of Derric van Rensburg and the tattoo industry, Adams cites the classic sixties pop artists Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol as influences, as well as more obscure illustrators like Drew Struzan and the Hipgnosis design team behind iconic album sleeves for Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Beyond his more traditional artwork, JJ Adams has also created interior designs and bespoke work for a number of London bars and restaurants. Adams now calls South East London his home, living there with his wife, children and dogs, producing his work in his Woolwich studio.