Programme: Painting - BA

Year: 2011

Artist Thomas Adam graduated from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) in 2011. We caught up with Thomas as he returned to Edinburgh for the opening of his first solo show 'Lightning Without Thunder' at Edinburgh's Arusha Gallery.

In a new series of works created for Lightning Without Thunder, Thomas has presented an abstracted semi-autobiographical version of his youth growing up in rural Scotland, focusing on a specific time period between adolescence and adulthood where senses are seemingly heightened, memories are more dreamlike, and the supernatural seems more plausible.

Tell us about your time at ECA

I finished my BA in Painting at ECA in 2011 having had an exciting and memorable experience. I was particularly attracted to the study of drawing and painting due to its unrestricted nature, having never really picked up a paintbrush, I was more focused on different ways of producing imagery through drawing and print-based mediums.

The huge shared studios were a lively place to work, It was a real pleasure, and I can only dream of the views out to Edinburgh Castle now from my windowless box of a studio in Woolwich, London. Along with the exciting course, great peers and tutors, there was a vibrant music scene at ECA bolstered by Graeme Day from the student union and Colvin Cruickshank from the Wee Red Bar, as well as a practice room that was bookable at £5 a night. I had a great time playing in the band The Machine Room, regularly performing at the 'Wee Red', and the Revel.

'Moonlight Through Skylight' (2018) by Thomas Adam
Image courtesy of the artist
'Moonlight Through Skylight' (2018) by Thomas Adam

"I can only dream of the views out [of my studio at ECA] to Edinburgh Castle now from my windowless box of a studio in Woolwich, London"

Thomas Adam, 2011 Painting - BA alumnus

Tell us about your experiences since leaving ECA

After finishing my BA, I decided to relocate to London in 2012, where I have continued to exhibit and develop my art practice. This was very exciting, but I must say was a bit of shock, coming from the comforts of living in Edinburgh.

After a few years of balancing work as a freelance art technician, and working out of a studio in London Fields I decided it would be an ideal time to step back into education, starting my MA degree in Print at the Royal College of Art (RCA), where I recently graduated in 2018.

Thinking back to my time at ECA, I feel that it was one of the most creative and experimental periods of my art practice, where there was time to make mistakes, and crap work, as well as creating work and ideas that will probably inform your practice for the rest of your career. It was a very precious time.

Since leaving the RCA last June, I have been busy creating new works for exhibitions including a solo exhibition Lightning Without Thunder at Edinburgh's Arusha Gallery. 

Thomas Adam's RCA Degree Show
Image courtesy of the artist
Thomas Adam's RCA Degree Show, showing 'Polish' and 'Stargazer' (2018)
'Dusk in Bonnybridge' (2018), Thomas Adam
Image courtesy of the artist
'Dusk in Bonnybridge' (2018), Thomas Adam

Alumni wisdom

The best thing about studying at ECA is the friendship group that you make! It’s a very intense four years and with Edinburgh being a very manageable and inclusive city, there is a good chance you will meet pals that you stay in touch with and collaborate with long after you leave. 

Some advice I would make to current students at ECA would be to make full use of the facilities and experienced technicians. It’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity to have everything you could ever need at your fingertips, and you can learn some very useful skills for later in life.

Also, I would recommend really sinking your teeth into the ECA experience, try to play a part in the college, setting up your own exhibitions, and supporting others. Come in every day that you can, even if it seems like it might be a quiet one, you never know what surprises it could hold.

'Lightning Without Thunder' 21 March - 7 April 2019 at Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh


Are you interested in studying Painting - BA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art?

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