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. The son of a baptist minister, Adams moved to Cape Town at a young age. 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 top artists. Imitating the style of van Rensburg, Adams developed a love of vibrant colours and graphic art.
While studying graphic design at college, Adams worked as an apprentice at a popular tattoo studio in central Cape Town. He returned to Britain in the mid-nineties with the ambition of becoming a full-time tattoo artist.
His dream wasn’t to be, 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 and in 2009, after selling some of his acrylic paintings through a local gallery, he decided to take the plunge and move back to London to pursue his art career.
In 2011, he caught the eye of numerous collectors when he produced a series of images of tattooed celebrities. Using images of iconic figures including Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando, Adams digitally adorned each body with intricate inkwork, giving celebrities elaborate sleeves of tattoos.
More recently, Adams has been featured in Vogue and GQ magazine having worked alongside clients like 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 in 2016.
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. Aside from the influence of Derric van Rensburg and the tattoo industry, Adams cites Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and more obscure illustration artists like Drew Struzan as inspiration.