Robert Adlam

MA Fine Art - Farnham


I enjoy integrating certain traditions within Fine Art – such as figurative and allegorical painting – with specific advances in Existential Anthropology, the Psychology of the Individual, and Archive Studies. In consequence my practice is best described as a contemporary example of ‘inter-disciplinarity’. Consciously positioned as a ‘boundary case’ I create self-portrayals that are autobiographical in nature and grounded in my lived experience. My work is always deeply personal and responds positively to the critical writings of Susan Sontag, Iris Murdoch and Lucy Lippard.  

My prime intentions are two-fold: first I wish to counter the frenetic world of excess and surplus production – along with the associated and relentless consumption of deceptive images. I do this through the creation of an art that is contemplative, meditative and which privileges critical ‘thinking’. In this respect I try to resist the ‘artificialisation’ and ‘spectacularisation’ that characterises so much of what passes as ‘art’. Second, I reflect upon the problem of ‘ideology’ and consider the implications of an emerging  counter-ideology that is pessimistic and nihilistic. Overall a provocative observation made by Susan Sontag underpins the governing narrative in the majority of my work: she remarked that ‘perhaps we accord too much value to memory, not enough to thinking’; in support of her concern, I hope to establish a mood expressing ‘hard serious thinking’ – which is provoked and supported by paintings, book art, photographs, personal artefact and written text – the whole melded together in a complex aesthetic ensemble. 

My publications support these intentions and include ‘a long meditation on death’ as well as a series of volumes constituting ‘an ethnography of the particular’ in which I construct a diffuse self-portrait indicating some of my predominant ways of seeing; these range from a ‘gaze’ that is influenced by imaginative literature to a mode of perception that is essentially a form of detached scientific observation. Desire, too, is always present.

I also draw inspiration from some of the great radical thinkers and theoreticians such as Michel Foucault, Joseph Beuys, Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger; certain key themes in their thinking – such as the ‘twilight of the idols’ and ‘the redemptive power of insignificant things’ constitute the prime stimulus for much of my art. In addition, as Iris Murdoch observed, ‘art has many charms and many intentions’ and is also for ‘fun’ and my installations or series of photographs attempt to create a ‘space’ in which the viewer or observer might ‘play’ with the meaning of the images and the written texts that they encounter. 

Finally, my work reflects the pleasures of childhood, my commitment to a human-rights culture and the fruits yielded by my enduring personal phantasms – always in partnership with a certain ‘life of the mind’. 

The full range of my artistic practices can be seen at:

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Robert Adlam | Fine Art 17
A space for thinking
Robert Adlam | Fine Art 16
You and me - and the space between
Robert Adlam | Fine Art 15
Darkness at noon - a family history
Robert Adlam | Fine Art 14
Stalag - with wire and hair and beautiful dead flies
Robert Adlam | Fine Art 13
Twilight of the idols
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Iconography: Human, all too human