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The four dimensions of Adam Neate
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Ipswich-born artist Adam Neate gave BBC Suffolk a preview of his exhibition

By Richard Haugh
BBC Suffolk

A year after giving away 1000 pieces of his artwork on the streets of London, Adam Neate has returned to the gallery.

The Ipswich artist is exhibiting new works at the Elms Lesters gallery in London, featuring a mixture of media.

"For as long as I can remember I've been working with cardboard and paint," said 31-year-old Neate.

"I thought I'd try different materials such as plastic, metal and fabric. It's been a new learning process and like starting again, which is really nice."

Adam Neate: A New Understanding showcases what he's been working on since last year's joint exhibition with Ron English, and more recently his one-night quest to leave his art on the streets of London.

Life and death, religion and overcrowding are themes covered in the new exhibition, but they're not what define it.

Family group by Adam Neate
Life and death is a recurring theme in Adam Neate's exhibition

Instead, it's Neate's determination to experiment that shines through, making a transition from paint to sculpture in a mission to capture movement and time.

"I spent a year developing my style of painting and came up with a concept of how to visualise 4D space, and 3D space within that," said Neate. "A lot of the work is quite experimental."

Trans Atlantic

He's gained inspiration from South America, especially the significance of religion in people's lives.

Neate's wife is Brazilian and the couple, who have a young son, spend equal amounts of time overseas and in the UK.

A giant crucifix is one of the most striking images in the new show. Viewed by a confessional-box style mesh window, the plastic figure expands over two levels of the gallery.

"Religion has always fascinated me - just the power that art and religion can have over people as a combined force," said Neate. "I wanted to reassess that.

Adam Neate portrait
Metal and fabric have been used to build on Neate's portraits

"Five hundred years ago you'd be looking at a stained glass window with the light shining through. I'm looking at what the contemporary equivalent is - trying to capture the human faith again.

"I'm not religious at all but people's faith in an image fascinates me and that's when I think art is at its strongest - that gut feeling, the emotion that it can give you."

Hard times

Adam Neate learned his trade in Suffolk and accepted a design job after graduating.

With just £40 a week coming out of his wage packet for rent, plenty of friends and an active social life, things were good.

But the lure of doubling his £14,000 a year salary proved too tempting and he moved to London, where his rent quadrupled, transport costs rose and he found himself poorer than before.

But painting was his passion and for years he left around 100 pieces of his work a month on the streets for people to discover.

Paul Jones, Elms Lesters' owner, eventually offered him space in his gallery.

Neate has since become one of the leading contemporary artists in the world, but for all the hype and success, he remains a hugely likeable character.

Initially shy, he became at home when talking about his work and a promised 30 minute meeting turned into a two-and-a-half-hour tour.

I learned he's a big fan of the humbleness and work of Bruce Parry (less so of Charley Boorman), that he's currently looking at a way to reduce the cost of the £60 eyeballs that he uses and that he has almost no artwork in his home.

Adam Neate at Elms Lesters
Neate wants a response from visitors, whether good or bad

"Just a couple of friends' paintings, and they're in the hallway."

He's interested in the way that 3D is revolutionising cinema and wonders what steps the art world will take to beat the recession, but for someone whose work will start at £6000 and has previously sold for over £60,000 he genuinely doesn't seem interested in finances.

"Paul will decide all that," he said, adding that he'd be happy to work in a DIY store if it meant he had enough money to carry on painting.

The main concern for Neate is that his new exhibition will provide the surprise he'd wish for if he was visiting another artist's show and that it gets a response, regardless of whether it's positive.

"You spend a year working away for just one night to show to people, and then the next day it's 'ah, back to the drawing board'.

"But it also gives you the chance for a fresh start and the chance to reinvent yourself."

Adam Neate: A New Understanding is at Elms Lesters Painting Rooms, WC2H 8DH, from Friday, 9 October.




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