icon. an icon is often referred to as a symbol, someone who has made a tangible difference and is a positive influence on a measurable scale.
Pietro Adamo was born in 1955 in Toronto, Ontario Canada. He enrolled in the Fine Art and Art History program at the University of Toronto and Sheridan College. After graduation, he took a position teaching art at the Chaminade College School in Toronto. While there he helped establish a strong visual arts department, one which saw many of his students go on to become prominent architects, designers, illustrators, and fine artists. During his two decades of teaching Adamo continued to paint, and in that time executed several private and public commissions of his work.
The paintings of Adamo are a celebration of the artists’ admiration for the “unpredictable and inexhaustible record of life”. He abandons the conventional renderings of geometric forms through his textured surfaces and rough contours.
Adamo is an artist who draws influence from artists of all periods and from the world around him. Travel is an important source of inspiration, especially trips to Italy, his ancestral homeland. During these extended stays Adamo is able to explore monumental art and architecture as well as the small details of the rural landscape.
Adamo’s career as an artist has been a journey of continuous exploration and growth. His paintings on paper and canvas have a constant audience. He has also released a highly successful series of hand-pulled prints and posters. Today his works can be found in galleries throughout Canada, Europe, and the USA.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
CH: What are your 2021 goals for art practice?
PA: In 2021, creating on a large scale has become a preoccupation. Scale, purity and saturation of colour are commanding my attention. Revisiting Clifford Still, Motherwell, Frankenthaler and Richter, Hockney and Doig, Riopelle and Snow- tossing them around into an Adamo salad, and revealing a new direction hinted at by Wavelengths and Percussion Kroma, two of my recent pieces.
The world of now, of the unexpected, the cusp- the precipice- the danger and opportunity that confronts humanity at this time – all of this bleeds into the work. At times I’ll find comfort in the nostalgia of my youth and the Icons that can now be scrutinized through rose-coloured lenses awash in the soft sepias of years gone by. But like all revivals, the works always contain something of the angst of present-day events: new realities that force themselves into the fresh visual vocabulary. Yes, you can revisit – but you can’t stay there.
CH: What does a typical day in your studio look like?
PA: The blinds are up and the light gushes in, and with a fresh espresso, I am ready to enjoy the privilege. I am an artist. I have been painting mostly, drawing (often), and sculpting (occasionally) since I was a child. I can scarcely recall a day of my life without art at the center of it.
I taught visual arts for two decades, in the eighties and nineties, and I can say with certainty that it was a valuable experience. I marvel to this very day at the accomplishments of some of the students who have established themselves in the world of art, architecture, and design. They emerged from my room 224. I know that the environment was conducive to lively debate, meaningful discussion, and creative expression. They found their refuge in a Catholic Boy’s School focused on discipline and academia. So many artists and architects, designers, photo-journalists, photographers, and creative directors got their start in that room, during those years. So many went on to major careers in the ensuing decades. I applaud them, and I thank them, for they had an influence on me, and my outlook as an artist, too.
Perhaps this is my reward. Maybe this studio and this time is my reward. The completion of a piece, deadlines, discipline, organization, cataloging, and just plain hard work – all part of a day of teaching, and all part of a day in the studio.
I lose track of time when I’m in the “zone”, and the painting can alter course several times before it takes its final shape. I do plan, but I am careful not to plan to the point where I lose the “moment” to a need for control. That battle always ends in mud. Good music helps me get through the day, although I may listen to anything from classical to hip-hop to rock to folk in one day. I often return to Italian Contemporary Music simply for its ability to touch a wider range of emotions if I need awakening from my stupor.
The studio is a well-organized mess. I know where everything is. That’s all that matters. I refer to it as Mad Max Place. The large, north-facing window on the second floor has an inspirational view of a stone and paving company set amidst an industrial wasteland. It sits above a car-detailing enterprise. It’s ironic since all I did as a young teen was draw cars. In some weird way, I have found much inspiration here, and I always feel the presence of the muse here.
I take my hi-res camera at the end of the day ( often, the day lasts more than 10 hours) and send my pics to J.C. (my assistant, and a former student whom I have been working with for over 16 years). I allow another 24 hours for a decision regarding the work. The next day I may tweak it- or I may feel that it is ready and sign it. J.C. then takes final pics and catalogs the work.
When you first view Adamo’s Icon series your senses are energized by the vibrant aurora found within each piece. enthralled by The energy that comes from the hot pinks and blinding yellows, mixed with layering of neon colours and texture. When asked what colour means to him, Adamo’s response was simple; it means courage.
“Courage, that’s what colour means to me. It takes courage to be a colour in a black and white world.” – pietro Adamo
CH: How do you go from inspiration and ideas, to a finalized painting such as the Icon series?
PA: Several years ago I fulfilled a request for a “Marylin Monroe.” With this project, I liked the leeway and freedom I was given to do what I wanted. I had promised myself beforehand that I would never go the “cliche” route, and besides, I wasn’t really interested in celebrities.
I enjoyed the process of creating the “Blue Valentine” series, and the response was outstanding. The resulting demand was something I could not ignore and so I immersed myself and have found creative ways to represent these figures in my own light, with a genuine focus on their humanity and not simply their “iconography”.
CH: What does the term “Icon” mean to you?
PA: An icon can refer to any symbol that is instantly recognizable and has a “universality” associated with it, and sometimes can be interpreted as a cliché.
In using the images of human ICONS, I have been careful to pay homage to and respect their humanity. In a strange twist, my early geometric abstractions (Triad Series) were referred to as iconographic, as they contained repeated motifs.
CH: What would you like the viewers to draw from your artwork?
PA: One can anchor a piece on a recognizable motif, and still consider it an abstract. It depends on how far you are willing to go in letting action and colour become protagonists. It requires a measure of faith, and confidence in your approach.
I find the interplay of control and letting go to be most interesting in painting. Whether in representational or non-representational work, for me, this point of subtle tension is of utmost importance in rendering a piece interesting. Stray too far in either direction and you could find yourself staring at something too sterile in its rigidity, or lost and muddy in its organic lack of structure.
Throughout his life, Adamo has been focused on his audience and this shows in the success he’s achieved. From his 20 years of dedication as an art teacher to countless EXPO’s he’s participated in (within Canada and around the world), he’s always been destined for greatness.
We live in an exciting time where we can experience first hand, the passion and creativity that Adamo exudes. With each brushstroke, with every finished canvas we can be assured of one thing, that Adamo’s brilliant ideas and talent will forever leave a lasting impression on the art world.
Learn more about Adamo as he deep dives into the creative process behind his icon pieces.
As well, having recently celebrated the incredible milestone of 48 Years of Excellence, we have a video showcasing his amazing collection of artwork that spans decades of creativity.
Watch our website and social media for updates and new work by Pietro Adamo!
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