Creating sharp, crisp and dynamic portraits, Adam Craemer combines the adventure and spirit of graffiti and street art with the subtlety and grace of the female form. “My aim,” he says, “is to push this combination as far as possible without losing the essence and emotional connection with the portrait image.” Born in Durban, South Africa, he has been an active part of the graffiti world in the past. Reminiscing these thrilling past experiences through his art, he creates bold, multi-layered compositions that will instantly captivate you.
Could you talk a little bit about your early artistic days, particularly the graffiti culture of South Africa? What drew you into that world?
Both my parents are artists back in my native land, South Africa. In school, art and textile design were natural choices for me. However, my experience in school was a bit of a letdown, mainly due to the focus on theoretical understanding more than practice. My urban style of art wasn’t appreciated much. Most people did not recognize the potential in this blend of pop culture with fine art. I almost abandoned my own style to take up more recognized and appreciated techniques. Even though I am past that now, I often wonder that had my style been encouraged I would have actually enjoyed my art school experience.
My friends and I were quite into graffiti and hip hop culture, back in South Africa. We attended several events where the best South African artists would be would be working on exciting large murals. A number of us decided to get into the street art scene. For quite some time I practiced graffiti, legally as well as in the dark of the night and at places I shouldn’t have been. It was an exciting chapter in my life but it was short-lived. My friends and I got busted while painting some trains, following which I took the decision to take to the canvas instead.
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Who are your main influences?
My main influences are street and pop artists like Hush, Findac, Warhol, and Lichtenstein. Often, I also find works and images on social media platforms that inspire me.
How do you choose your subjects? Why only the female form? Is there any significance behind the graffiti background in your portrait series?
My subjects are generally sourced online or are from client driven images. The images I find range from classically posed to mood-driven photography.
My interest in the female form is drawn from the styles that I explore in my art. Graffiti, for instance, is often harsh, bright, and roughly urban, married with the grace and flowing lines of the female form. It is an extremely interesting art form that brings together two opposite elements onto one substrate. I like to experiment with my techniques, to see how much complexity the piece will allow while maintaining the essence of the female form.
The graffiti backgrounds in my work are my way of reminiscing the past. The heavily textured nature of the art form along with the boldness in terms of color and subject has always appealed to me. I believe graffiti elements will always remain a part of my work no matter which direction my art practice takes in future.
Have you done any art commissions? If yes, how do you think they are different from the work you normally do?
Yes, I have done commissions in the past. While I am open to client-driven works, I need my artistic freedom to create. I make it a point to convey that to my clients. I use their images, preferred colors, and take into account their expectation, but when it comes to the expression and style, I like to develop it on my own.
Do you have a personal favorite among your works? Why?
This is a hard one! I often have a favorite work for a while, but as I move on to more evolved concepts, my personal choices change too. My first girl, Jess is probably an all-time favorite, on account of the painting being my earliest work.
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