FYA! Fringe visual artist Adam Red taps into something otherworldly to explore the edges of his craft, expanding the borders of art itself
By Redge Tolentino
Identity-wise, people are verbs, not nouns. In which case Adam Red reads, paints, sculpts, dances, and vogues. “I also collaborate with creatives from other disciplines,” shares young Adam. “I love exploring new mediums, and I admit that my style is ever-changing due to shifting influences and interests.”
Adam cites books (on any topic), meeting new people, and collecting peculiar objects as his primary ways of drawing inspiration for exploration. His Instagram reveals sketches of his journey. From cutesy wooden sculptures to mysterious energy signature specimens, to group dances to paintings of women in various forms of whimsy—Adam seems to be someone running through his “Van Gogh blue phase” on overdrive—feeding, in his own words, “an insatiable lust for interesting things.”
Indeed, Adam’s constant curiosity often leads him outside the mainstream, and into a sea of esoterica and mysticisms. One is reminded of an ancient shaman, or a metaphysical gypsy, someone merely in human form and tapped into something otherworldly… from birth.
A crafty beginning
Adam was born in Manila but found himself quickly spirited to Cavite. There, his earliest memories consist of his grandfather—a towering figure who dabbled in painting, architecture, carpentry, Harrison Plaza window displays, and sculpture—putting out work good enough for certain high-brow former first-ladies to patronize. “I spent my childhood in his workshop,” recalls the younger Red, “But my parents also shaped the way I see the world.”
Adam closes his eyes and sees his mother’s dexterous hands embroidering, costume-making, and crocheting. He feels his father’s hands in his as they go to processions, festivals, and parades, hearing his narration on saints, novenas, and the Catholic culture. “Despite a religious background, I was given a good bit of freedom to express myself,” Adam shares, “I was a difficult child and my family saw me as radical, but they accepted me and were proud of me.”
Finishing a bachelor’s degree in interior design, but shifting to a professional art practice, the post-birth womb of Adam’s art would later expand to sojourns outside Cavite. He grew up wandering, exposed to various regional influences. “I would count culture as a big influence for my works,” he says, “Indio, Spanish, Chinese cultures, how people behave, or misbehave throughout history.” Adam features identity as a main theme for his works. And whether they be of a personal or national nature, or anywhere in between, he attempts to merge this motif with medium. “I’ll mix painting with performance, materials with other materials…” he trails off, lost in a thought to who-knows-where, before coming back. “I have no idea what I’m going to create next. I’m still figuring things out.”
From fears to fierce
If there is anything that stops a journey, it is fear. Luckily for Adam, his fears are to be complacent, to stagnate, and to be repressed in one place. He recalls his first step into the art scene with his piece The Lost Sophistication (a personification of Mother Philippines) in an exhibit hosted by Pineapple Lab. Ever since that first leap forward, doors for Adam’s creativity opened. “It was also the beginning of my connection with other creatives,” he says. “It was a very eye-opening experience. I really felt like I penetrated into the creative industry. For me, this piece is a historical marker.”
Asked for his advice to other aspiring young(er) artists, Adam cautions that “being passionate is easy, what’s hard is persisting and resisting.” He is aware that art is a risky financial path, but is heartened by patrons who support the younger generation. What’s important is to find a balance between your craft and financial needs, to work with people you trust and have a respect for—who share your values, principles, and aspirations.
“I choose this industry because it’s the kind of absurd I can tolerate, and my duty as an artist is very fulfilling. It’s something I’m natural at, so I pursued it. It’s crazy. But I love crazy”—the kind of crazy that normalcy depends on.
Adam Red may be reached through his email: [email protected] and his Instagram: @theadamred.