Shane McAdams & Matthew: In Conversation

Matthew chats with artist Shane McAdams about inspiration and the connection between fashion and art.
   Courtesy of Shane McAdams
5th November 2013

Firework by Shane McAdams
Firework by Shane McAdams

For this year’s summer collection, Matthew explored the work of New York-based artist, Shane McAdams, specifically his Synthetic Landscape series – kaleidoscopic canvases created from ballpoint pens, oil and resin. He then wove his own magical scenes of Kerala and Tibet into McAdams’s framework. Following this collaboration, Matthew co-hosted the preview of the Hand to Earth exhibition featuring Shane’s work this autumn. Here, they catch up to discuss their creative process and seek an answer to the perennial question – is fashion art?


MW: “Shane, as you know I’m a huge admirer of your work since we collaborated last year. What I love is when you see it in reality, the use of colour appears almost luminescent, can you explain how you achieve this?”

SM: “Even when I was a student working only in oil paint, my colour schemes were always high pitch. I always held a little desire to paint with the palette of a Spanish master. But alas, high chroma was second nature. I couldn’t paint a January sky in Dresden without saturating the colour. So I decided to run with it and use industrial inks and dyes, eventually learning to crack open ball point pens and leach the colour out of the ink. That’s where most of the high intensity colour comes from now.” “What was the process like for you to translate my work into garments, Matthew?”

MW: “I played around with the prints of the works you gave me a little bit to fit with my colour palette and inspiration for the collection, but I wanted to show them close to their individual form in landscapes rather than a repeat. I worked out placement for each garment and liaised with my digital printers to get the achieved effect in a high resolution quality on both silk and a weave. I loved how it turned out. Your style is very unique and distinct, can you tell me how it developed?”

“My colour schemes were always high pitch, high chroma was second nature. I couldn’t paint a January sky in Dresden without saturating the colour.”
Shane McAdams

SM: “I began painting figure-populated landscapes many years ago and continued to do so until I enrolled in graduate school. Grad school forced a complete re-evaluation of my practice. I was asked by a professor, “What would you make if you were alone on an island?” Meaning what do I naturally gravitate to when not trying to make something impressive. And that brought me to materials. The next five years became an all-out exploration of materials and trying to tease structure and form out of unexpected substances and tools. Only in the last five years I have brought imagery back into the abstract materials forms.”

MW: “I found similarities in our work as I often take inspiration from places when I’m travelling for example, but that element of inspiration can be turned into something quite abstract after I’ve artworked it into a print. Where does the inspiration for your landscapes come from?”

Hot Air by Shane McAdams
Hot Air by Shane McAdams

SM: “When I brought imagery back into my work, it was initially as a conceptual ‘bracket’ to the abstract forms. I had always considered my process-based abstractions as mini-landscapes. As more ‘real’ than a picture, because in a sense they were actual nature. However, many saw the abstract work as something more formal than I did. Which is fine, but I wanted more of the dialogue about my work to take place in the mental space in which I made it. So I peeled the centre out of one large painting and painted Niagara Falls. The same view Fredric Church painted. And countless others. So in the beginning the places were simply iconic, there to say ‘landscape’ in the literalist of terms. Since, though, I look to the imagery as more of a poetic counterpoint to the abstract forms. So the imagery is now a mix of real and fantasy, but you probably won’t see any Matterhorns or Everests popping up again.”

MW:  “I was immediately drawn to that fantastical element of your work. The hyperreal landscapes are so alluring, yet divorced from reality. I like to play with the juxtaposition of the organic and the synthetic in my own work so this resonated with me. Do you think there is a close relationship between art and fashion?”

SM: “I absolutely do, I’m of the mind that art is a mix of inspiration and conceptual problem solving. There’s a lot of pure inspiration that hits when you’re driving or in the shower, but often one needs to be able to mentally process these moments and distill them into something coherent. I take my inspiration when it comes and then sit down and consider how all those fragments of raw wonder can  be assembled into something that might resonate. I think this basic process is similar for all creative acts. Thus at their heart fashion and art – and architecture and literature for that matter – are all the same, only taking different forms.”

“I was immediately drawn to that fantastical element of your work. The hyperreal landscapes are so alluring, yet divorced from reality.”
Matthew Williamson
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