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> > > Adam Reynolds: an Obituary

An obituary by Tony Heaton

sculpture by Adam Reynolds - a lead suitcase surrounded by leaves

Suitcase: sculpture by Adam Reynolds

The stature of Adam Reynolds was confirmed when Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate galleries, wrote Adam's obituary for the Guardian newspaper. It was a lengthy, detailed and thoughtful piece. I am grateful to add to this in the form of a personal recollection.

Adam was the first Disabled artist I met and his work had a profound effect on me. He was a fellow sculptor, and whilst the outcome of our work was different we often followed similar lines of enquiry. We exhibited together had worked collaboratively on projects and had planned to do so in the future.

Adam was a good collaborator and had a rare generosity of spirit. He brought the best out in others. I was amazed to see the film work he produced with SignDance Collective that formed part of the recent DaDa-South launch in Brighton. The performance piece Sisyphus that he was to perform in front of Tate Modern would have been another significant expression of his growth and confidence as an artist. He died two days before the event was to have taken place.

Also planned was an installation piece Seven Sleepers an ambitious and conceptual work exploring the act of breathing; an act, to quote Adam, with interesting but potentially dire consequences.

He was also a diplomat. Many present at DA21 will remember that after a particularly heated discussion (about Disability arts), I tried to mediate by suggesting we were all friends together. A voice said that we were comrades rather than friends. Adam diffused the situation by describing us as a family of cousins! A delightful image, laughter, and the conference moved on.

At Holton Lee we are privileged to see Adam's work every day, in the form of three significant sculptures, the Pillar of Damocles, Temptation and one of his series of Gargoyles. These works form part of our developing permanent collection. But his contribution to our movement went beyond sculpture. He was an activist who worked for change; on the art panel of the Arts Council, with the Southern Arts Board where he helped to develop their Disability Arts Strategy, on the Tate monitoring group, with Shape London and as an independent consultant and trainer on access and disability equality issues.

He was also great company, following a particularly hard day's work making sculpture, we retreated to an Italian restaurant on Poole Quay, dining late into the night. On the way back we were stopped by the police. I told the officer I had to get this poor disabled person to Holton Lee where the care assistants were waiting for him. The officer peered into the car and a silent Adam did a wonderful impression of the poor cripple! We were waved on without a word. We were also speechless with laughter.

He was a vital part of our movement, which is diminished by his loss. The last time I saw Adam was on an English summer evening in a Zen garden for which he had created a perfect sculpture, a glass of pink champagne in his hand and surrounded by those in admiration of his work and who loved him.

We will remember him, and our resolve to build a national Disability arts archive is stronger for his passing.

Adam Reynolds, artist, October 22nd 1959 - August 11th 2005


Adam Reynolds at work

Adam Reynolds at work

Adam Reynolds died just two days before he was due to take part in a performance arts piece with the Signdance Collective. Sisyphus was scheduled to happen on the Bankside near the Tate Modern gallery. Adam's part in the performance was to lift bricks from among the detritus on the bank of the Thames.

David Bower from Signdance Collective wrote the following poem as a tribute to Adam and a performance which never happened.

Ulysses Gaze

Surveying the task, the element, sun, wind, clouds.

Search for the sublime

Search for the beautiful

Search for the decay

Energy of a sublime sea, beats in the heart of the city.

Contextualizing the sculpture, the happening.

The scale; our small stage in a vast metropolis

Energy of flesh

Energy of muscle

Energy of bone

Veins, skin tone, physical action.

Progression of time marked out, not only in seconds , but in breathes.

Clouds, tides, the growing sculpture.

Steps, drips, a portrait of each brick.

Each one a World

Each architectural definition.

Analogies to the ever-receding cityscape