Aussie Adam Todd has two surprising passions. When he’s not working on his art, which is inspired by street artists like Banksy- he fights Muay Thai professionally. We caught up with Adam, who hails from Perth and lives in the West Village, to talk about his first solo show, painting on his fire escape and how Muay Thai informs his work.
Tell me about the show?
The show’s called ‘Now That’s F#*king Art’ and it’s my first solo show. So, I’m renting a gallery here on the Lower East Side for a 15 day pop-up.
You’re based in New York- have you been here for a while?
Yeah, I’m based in the West Village. I’ve been working here since 2014. It kind of started as a hobby and it’s rolled on from there and one piece turned into 10 pieces, that turned into 35 pieces.
So, have you had any formal training?
I studied spray gun art straight out of school and then it dropped off about 12 years ago and then started painting again last year. I got inspired by something and tried to roll one out.
Do you remember that moment when you went home and started?
Yeah, I do actually, at the time I had a sort of fascination with guns and I thought that what I always wanted to do was a stencil painting of an AK-47. There was some controversy in the news around that time with the LA Clippers’ boss [Donald Sterling] being recorded making racist remarks, and the Malaysian Airlines plane going missing, so I thought, you know, this is pretty good. Good idea, put some newspaper clippings on some canvas, give it some spray and see how it goes.
Tell me about living in New York, what’s life like here?
Energetic, never stops. New York never stops, it’s probably one of the most motivating cities in the world for me. If I went back to Perth I don’t think I would be doing exactly what I am doing. This city inspires you in different ways.
Tell me a little bit about that. What do you find yourself gravitating to that gets you excited?
Well, it used to be, like everyone that comes over from a smaller city, the nightlife. I love the culture here. I love the coffee culture and the chances to meet unreal people that you would’ve never crossed paths with any other place in the world.
New York is one of the places you feel the courage to do anything, you’re not worrying, How much shit are my mates going to give me? Tell me a little bit about your experience?
Well, I thought there’s a few ways of getting into the art world, you can go around selling yourself to galleries. Give them a commission and whatever. But I thought I’m going to throw all my pieces into one and pay a couple weeks rent and have an opening show. Do my own PR using the contacts I’ve made here in NY, which wouldn’t be possible probably anywhere else either. It’s been pretty easy to get a crowd of 100 people down to celebrate.
What about space-wise, you mentioned you living in the West Village, how do you have space to produce?
When I started I was in a shoebox of a studio. Maybe 10 were done on the fire escape? Being spray paint, it’s very toxic and doing it in a close space is not the smartest idea. As I started getting a little larger, my girlfriend actually bought me an easel for Christmas, a big one. I moved into a larger studio and was able to paint these. All these have been done in a residential space.
Let’s talk about a couple of your pieces. Do you use the same stencil?
No, they’ve all been cut so everything here is all a one of, I’m not doing prints or anything and they’re all originals. They’ll never be another one like them. They’ll be variations of the ideas, but the actual hard work will be original. The first few were probably inspired a little bit by Banksy and I really enjoy drawing, printing, and making the stencils. That’s half of it and then obviously the other fun part is the spraying of them.
What do you like about Banksy?
Probably his mystery. He’s got this following of millions and no one knows exactly who he is. There’s obviously some speculation, some controversy behind his work. I try not to get too much into the political side of things like a lot of these street artists have done. I paint whatever I feel, whatever sort of comes to mind. I think my phone is full of ideas; probably got a couple years of work in there.
You fight Muay Thai- Thai kickboxing- professionally as well. Are there any interesting overlaps between training and producing art?
I think from the creative side they complement each other very well from a concentration perspective. And from a technique point of view, you have to be so focused. Muay Thai can often be seen as violent, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful forms of martial arts.
What’s next for you? What’s coming up?
I’m probably going to go to Australia and chill out for a little bit because I think that’s probably the balance that I have been lacking lately and I’ll come back in February or March once the weather becomes a little bit nicer. I’m thinking I’ll do another show. Whenever the weather warms up, so May or April.
Do you feel like anything from when you were growing up in Perth is still reflected some how? In the artwork? Is there any feeling of Australia?
I’ve always loved to draw. So, I think that even from, I can’t remember, either six or seven I always had a crayon in my hand or a pencil in my hand and was always drawing. That was a little outlet for me. I was playing Australian football pretty heavily, so it kind of evolved into this spray art and obviously to the spray can and graffiti art as well. It’s just cool that back then this was non-existent, it wasn’t called art. I think the whole street art scene, especially in the last five years has really blown up. These guys like Banksy and Mr Brainwash and Shepard Fairey, they’re making a killing.
What do you find rewarding about making art?
I’d never have and dollar signs driving my work; I just paint what I feel. If it sells, great, if people love it, great, but I’ve enjoyed the journey of painting and getting it there. Having the chance to put on a show and fill a gallery space with all your work. Yeah, it’s rewarding for sure.