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An interview with: Adrian Cox

We speak with mystical Los Angeles based painter; Adrian Cox.


One of our favourite contemporary artists, Adrian Cox is somewhat of an enigma. Utilising the technique of a master, and imagination of a seeker, for 10 years he has manifested artistic visions of otherworldly beings and landscapes existing in a dimension he describes as "the borderlands" in which nature and human biology intersect within imagery infused with spiritual metaphors unfolding in surrealistic scenes...


"Each image that I create is an exploratory step leading deeper into a mythic territory that exists at the threshold of the real and the imagined, the physical world and the world of dreams. Although this imaginal space has its origins inside of me, it's something that I've created to have a life of its own." - Adrian Cox

We've been following Adrian Cox's work for some time now, and there is no doubt that he is an exceptionally gifted artist who is capable of tapping into the psychological reccesses of consciousness to produce such emotionally charged masterpieces time and time again.


His work feels both archetypal, whilst at the same time, deeply personal. The artist has previously disclosed how growing up in a closeted gay family during his childhood left a lasting impression on him, and throughout his collection of work one may observe how this experience is represented through the symbolism of escaping persecution.


We were excited to speak with the gifted painter about his origins, spiritual beliefs, inspirations, current life & more. Read on below for our full interview with Adrian Cox...

First of all, where are you from and how has your environment sculpted your outlook on life? 

I'm originally from a small city outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The town that I'm from has grown and become more suburban over the years, but it was rural when I was a child, and the culture was very conservative. One of my mothers is transgender, so my family lived closeted as a matter of safety. This meant that my family had to present a false image to the external world, but our home was a kind of sanctuary where we could be ourselves. The house that I lived in as a child was built next to a pond in the forest, and I remember feeling that there was something sacred about this landscape. It was a place where social pretense fell away, and my family could simply Be. The forest sheltered us in a way. I've carried that landscape within me ever since I left, and I still dream about that house in the woods.

When did you first start creating art and how long did it take you to develop your signature style ? 

I've created art for as long as I can remember, although I only started painting seriously when I was in art school. When I was a graduate student back in 2011, I became fascinated with the potential of painting the human figure. At the time, I was experimenting with different ways of abstracting and distorting anatomy, but my artwork was still missing something. Certain figurative paintings have a kind of charge to them that's almost confrontational. They have Presence. I wanted my work to have this kind of Presence. Everything clicked into place when I saw Willem De Kooning's sculptures for the first time that year. They're gestural, grotesque, and somehow also beautiful.

The objects are remarkable in and of themselves, but I find their relationship to De Kooning's paintings particularly interesting; to me, these sculptures look as if they're three dimensional translations of his painted works. So I got the idea to work the other way around, and use a sculptural process to inform my painted works. When I got back to my studio, I sculpted a lumpy abstraction of a human head and painted it a fleshy beige color. I made a painting of that sculpture and called it “Border Creature Portrait I.” I consider this to be the first piece in my current body of work, although my style and imagery has evolved over time.

What does spirituality mean to you and how does it inform your artistic practice ?

For me, spirituality is the cultivation of interiority, and a spiritual practice is how one explores that inner world. I genuinely believe that interiority is subversive in the era of social media, since it's not something that's performed for others, and it can't be monetized or reduced to a spectacle. It's nurtured in the silence of one's own heart. I had a solo exhibition back in 2020 that I titled “Into the Spirit Garden,” which is ultimately how I think about spirituality; one's inner landscape is like a garden. It can't be built through force of will alone, but instead is grown and enriched over time with gentle attention and care.

A gardener collaborates with the natural world, and I think the same is true of cultivating an inner life. It always remains open to the outside world, and it's that openness which allows love to enter one's spiritual landscape. For me, a spiritual practice isn't about perfecting myself or becoming a more successful artist. It's about trying to move through the world as a kinder and more understanding human being.

What are the key ideas and themes that inspire you the most and why ? 

The central theme that runs through all of my work is empathy. It informs every other idea that I explore in my paintings. Empathy for the Other. Empathy for the Earth. You have to soften the boundaries of the Self to let the world in.

Are there any artists / books that have had a strong impact on you ? 

In the last few years, I've become fascinated by the imagery of the Marseilles tarot. There's something so psychologically evocative and ambiguous about the symbols in this deck. It's as if they're transmissions from the depths of the collective unconscious. My entry point to this deck was Alejandro Jodorowsky's book The Way of Tarot. He presents a fairly idiosyncratic way of reading the cards, but I resonated with the surrealist mysticism that guides his approach. I've also been reading Meditations on the Tarot, which has been tremendously influential for me both personally and artistically. A number of my recent paintings have drawn inspiration from the imagery of the tarot.

What lights the flame of passion inside of you ?

Painting is a practice that requires spending long hours in solitude, which I genuinely enjoy. It's a hermit's craft. But ultimately, the human connections that I've made through my art are what fuel my drive to create. When people tell me that they resonate with the world I've created, it's like a shot of pure inspiration to me. There's magic in creating a shared world, and I like to think that when I walk the forested paths of the Borderlands, others walk with me.

How has this past year been for you ? are there any lessons or transformative experiences you would like to share ? 

This past year has been intense, but very exciting. Earlier this year, I finished the largest solo exhibition I've ever created: “The Brush and the Torch” at Corey Helford Gallery. I'm incredibly proud of this exhibition, and feel as if it's my strongest body of work to date. Finishing this show was all-consuming, and once it finally opened, I took some time off to re-center and recover. I've always found the period immediately after a solo show to be a little difficult. There's often a kind of depressive slump where all of my psychological and physical energy has been exhausted. At one point during this period of recovery, I was hiking in a park near where I live. While I was walking, a lizard scurried across the path and disappeared beneath the branches of a low tree.

Rather than just moving on, I decided to sit beneath this tree and observe it for a while. I had been reading passages from Martin Buber's I and Thou at the time, so I decided to let this inform my meditation. Over the next half hour or so, this tree and its inhabitants revealed themselves to me as subjects rather than objects. While I sat there, I watched ants crawl along the trunk of the tree, birds flit through its branches, and a pair of lizards court each other in its shade. It was a quiet moment, and I didn't have any ego-shattering epiphanies, but it felt profound all the same.

How are you currently feeling as we approach the end of the year ? How do you feel about the future ? 

If I'm being perfectly honest, I feel pretty anxious about the future. It's hard not to these days. The future feels utterly opaque to me, which is frightening. That being said, I try not to let that fear guide me. In addition to remaining engaged with causes that matter to me, I've been focusing on the sphere of things that I can personally change. I try to be supportive and present for my family, friends, and wife. I try to bring a little kindness into conversations that I have with strangers. The human species as a whole may be walking on a razor's edge, but we still have a lot of power to individually shape our tiny corners of the world.

You can view more of Adrian Cox's work at his:



- ASTRAL MAGAZINE

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