In the studio with Adam S. Forsythe, a visual artist who is fascinated by the power of storytelling and how it shapes our understanding of the world around us. We met with Adam to tell us more about growing up on in the south west of England, his fascination with stories and fictions that exist within our cultures, the best piece of advice he's ever received.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
When I was young, being an artist seemed like an impossible thing to be. I knew I loved making paintings, but I didn’t know how you went from that, to being a professional artist. I think it was probably in my late 20s when I really started to think of myself as an artist. I started to experiment more and show work to more people. The response was positive and I started to gain more confidence in my work.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? How has this impacted your work?
I grew up in the south west of England, near Bristol. My upbringing was very rural, but during my teens we started to visit London and go to art galleries, I was hooked. I think my upbringing in the countryside has definitely had an impact on the themes of my work. I was very much interested in folktales and local stories and these themes have followed through in my work for many years.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work?
I started drawing and painting from a very young age. My grandmother loved to paint and I used to paint with her whenever I could. From then on I always had an interest in art, but I really started to get serious when I was leaving school. I hadn’t considered going to art school and a teacher came and found me in another lesson and showed me a prospectus for art foundation.
I don’t think there was a specific pivotal moment, but I think I felt I was on the right track when strangers started to enquire about my paintings.
What’s the message of your work?
At the root of my work is a fascination with stories and fictions that exist in our culture and what purpose these serve to our society. The focus of my work over the last few years has been on stories more on the edges, e.g. tales of the unexplained, paranormal reports but also more traditional folktales and legends. Out of this I’ve started to reimagine some of the cryptids, monsters and beasts in my own way.
Who are your greatest influences?
I really like Szabolcs Bozó. The way he uses colour is fascinating to me. I love the energy of Robert Nava. Du Jingze surprises me with every new painting, I absolutely love his work. I’m also very much into the work of Laust Hoejgaard, Hetty Douglas and Martyn Cross. I also take a lot of inspiration from older artists like Philip Guston, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
I take a lot of inspiration from TV shows like the X-Files and Unsolved Mysteries.
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
I want the viewer to be intrigued when they look at my work. I want there to be an element of familiarity that they can’t put their finger on, but at the same time, there’s something otherworldly about it.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practice?
When the pandemic hit, the lockdown meant that I had no studio. Luckily there was a small outbuilding at my house which I managed to turn into a temporary studio. It was a tiny, stone building with a single window. However, I used this time to really push my practice and start experimenting a lot.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
When I start a painting, I’ll very quickly move to working on the eyes. The eyes need to communicate an emotion. If I can get this, I feel that the piece will be good.
Tell us about the inspiration your works?
Many of my recent pieces have taken inspiration from folktales and paranormal stories. One of my favourites is that of Gef, the talking mongoose, which is a story about an allegedly talking mongoose which lived on a farm in the Isle of Man. What’s fascinating about this story is that it made national headlines here in the UK. Gef would apparently talk to the family who owned the house through the walls, saying bizarre things such as that he was, “an extra extra clever mongoose”, an “Earthbound spirit” and “a ghost in the form of a mongoose”. Regardless of the truth of this story, the story itself, how it was communicated and how it spread is extremely interesting to me.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
I recently found a book which features drawings of UFOs by the public. I’d love to explore those stories further and produce some work around that.
Describe your work in three words.
Mythical, Curious, Haunting
What do you listen to while you work? Is music important to your art?
Music is extremely important to me. I play multiple instruments and I was in many bands when I was younger. Recently, I’ve been very much enjoying the band Black Country, New Road.
What is your favorite read?
I love the books of Dave Eggers.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received (any quotes or mantras you particularly connect with)?
The struggle is the blessing.
What makes you laugh?
I love standup. Probably my favourite ever is James Acaster’s ‘Repertoire’.
What makes you nervous?
Is there anything you wish you were asked more often?
Do you fancy a cup of tea?
Is there anything you’ve recently tried for the first time?
A painting that is completely airbrush.
Is there anything you’ve been hesitant to try in the past but you’d like to this year?
Chilled red wine.
Do you have any superstitions?
I don’t walk over three drains in the street.
Would you rather know what the future holds or be surprised?
What palace in your everyday environment do you go to for inspiration?
I consistently find great artists on instagram, so probably my phone.
What are some things you’re most passionate about outside of your practice?
I’m a father, so outside of my practice, all my energy goes on them.
What is your relationship with social media?
It’s probably not healthy. I only really use instagram, but I do tend to lose hours checking out other artists on there.