James Adley, a true Modernist

You can be forgiven for not recognising today’s artist for until I acquired one of his works, I also had not heard of him.  Great fame did not come to this artist but #JamesAdley (1931- 2015) was respected and admired.  Born in south London, to working parents, Jim began his working life as an accountant.  He enlisted undertaking his national service and in 1963 enrolled in the Chelsea School of Art.  After graduating, he took a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania where he studied under #ClyffordStill.  A teaching post was granted to him at Penn State but he soon moved to teach at Michigan State.  He remain for 30 years and was a much beloved professor.

Forms in Space – acrylic on paper by James Adley @ 1960

The grand scale and subtle colouring of his paintings made photographing them very difficult. This severely hampered his ability to promote himself and his works and even now many of his works are stored in a house basement hoping to find a place where they displayed.

Jim was a masterful employer of colour and when young it didn’t matter whether that colour came from an arts store or the improperly mixed or unwanted paint from the local DIY shop.  In his mind, all colours were akin and they just needed to be used in the right way for them to work.
The work, I acquired, ‘Forms in Space’ is dated 1960, so comes from his first year at Chelsea Art School.  We see the beginnings of his use of striations and layers of colour which eventually evolved into grid like patterns.  To my amateur eye, even this early composition is well conceived and thoughtfully executed.  It attracts interest both in line and colour and for being early in his artistic career it shows a maturity beyond his years.


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