Dr Adam Rish: a multi-layered life

The art of injecting is just the surface for Sydney cosmetic doctor Adam Rish. His canvas extends beyond the face to wood, clay, marble and print making, creating international award-winning paintings and sculptures.

You may know Dr Adam Rish as an accomplished cosmetic doctor, perhaps for his presentations on injecting or laser dermatology. What you may know not know is that when his practice door closes, he spends the rest of his time working as an artist and sculptor.

Dr Rish graduated from medicine from the University of Tasmania in 1978, but continued his calling for the arts; he has also studied printmaking and sculpture, and completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Arts and an MFA. He has exhibited around Australia since 1975 and held more than 40 solo exhibitions.

Rish’s work has been the subject of prominent exhibitions and has won a host of international awards and residencies, including: Visual Arts Board Studio residencies in France and Italy in 1981 and 1984, respectively; a VAB Travel Grant in 1992; and an Asialink Residency in Indonesia in 1997. He also won the City of Hobart Art Prize in 1998.

‘I have been working on a co ee table book about my work, titled ‘Misanthropology: The World Art of Adam Rish’, he says. ‘The book is a review of my art practice over the past 40 years and is titled Misanthropology because my work involves cross-cultural collaboration with many indigenous societies but, unlike an anthropologist, I interfere in traditional art production. Although working on the book has been cathartic, I am glad to say it should be o to the publishers shortly because I’m sick of looking at it. Lately I have been involved in some public art projects in mosaic with my partner, mosaic artist Selena Seifert.’

Dr Rish says there is a joy in creativity – suddenly seeing or making something new for the first time. ‘I am most proud of each time I make a conceptual link in a new medium. Some works seem to embody the visual logic I am following better than others. For example, a work called ‘The Whiting on the Wall’ was the height of my logic when I was making Renaissance-style picture frames. In this painting [see g. 1], a word play on writing as a speech impediment, the whiting is trapped by a gold frame, which is separated from its object of desire, a small painting of an open can of ‘Imperial’ brand worms, the lid of which bears an uncanny resemblance to the anamorphic skull of Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ (1533) (a painting that deals with the futility of worldly goods). On the frame’s border (passe-partout) is a Latin epigram which comments on how, to see (a painting), one must always rst pass through language (the frame).’

‘In a work called ‘Chariots of the Gods’, made with Lily Karadada in Kalumburu, appear ying saucers (strongly resembling Weber barbecues) and Wandjinas in reference to Erich Von Daniken’s spurious theories of their origins as spacemen. Lily is a custodian of Wandjina images so we painted this one for Erich,’ he continues.

‘My sculpture made with I Wayan Sumantra of a Bali bomber [see g 3.] is a Garuda with machinegun wings about to drop the ‘big one’.’

Like children, Dr Rish says it’s hard to choose his favourite piece: ‘Most artists are very hopeful – Picasso said, ‘Every artist wants to live forever’ – so the next work is always going to be the best….’

Much of Dr Rish’s art is cross- cultural; a modern indictment, perhaps, on our current socio- political landscape. ‘My work references the loss of personal identity in our consumer society whereby we have become a nation of voyeurs,’ he explains. ‘It is always others that make things for us – our music, our art, our cuisine. I think that this is a great loss and contributes to our epidemic of depression. This is where successful indigenous societies do well as everyone takes part in the production process.’

‘The great thing about di erent cultures is you learn how relative your own culture is. One of the sad things about contemporary middle-class life is that these cultural di erences are disappearing with the same food and shops in every place on the planet. I very much like the Italian way of life as it is very sensual with a keen interest in culture and food at all levels of society. It’s also not ageist – different age groups interact. This is similar to the small societies in which I work; I think the Balinese have the most amazing culture. ‘His influences come from everywhere, but especially from the forms of the tribes/cultures he works with. ‘I like looking at interpretations of Western culture by Indigenous peoples because that is a bit like what I am doing, just from the opposite perspective,’ he adds.

‘I like tribal art for its raw power. I also like the artists that were in uenced by tribal art such as Gauguin, the German Expressionists (especially Max Beckman). I also like the humanism of the early Renaissance seen in Giotto or Piero della Francesca. In the contemporary world I like David Hockney’s prints, the works of William Kentridge and many of the new wave of Chinese artists. Naturally, I like the works of the artists I have collaborated with – Mimbres-in uenced ceramics from New Mexico, Paci c Island tapa cloths, Indonesian ikats, Anatolian carpets. I very much like the great Aboriginal painter Hector Jandany as both a great character and for his work.’

Dr Rish uses a variety of media, sometimes using power tools to sand wood or carve marble, however he says this can take away from the aesthetic enjoyment of the process. Conversely, painting, modelling clay or cutting warm lino (for printmaking) is enjoyable in being e ortless. ‘It is a wonderful feeling when you have arrived at a strong image and it gets better and better as more ideas are incorporated in the process of its execution,’ he says.

Does Dr Rish believe his creative pursuits help make him a better aesthetic doctor?

‘I think being a sculptor makes me a good injector…. but also if you realise there is no one look that is beautiful then I am not forcing my patients to conform. I really love those big Mediterranean noses on striking faces. Barbie dolls are the antithesis of beauty for me. I am always trying to stop my patients having things done; I like small enhancements rather that transformations. One of the main aesthetic lectures I give is called ‘Less is More’.’ AMP

The world according to
Dr Adam Rish

My perfect weekend is…
pottering around our bush property.

My favourite place to eat is…
at home with freshly picked produce from the greenhouse and yabbies form the lake. I like Sydney Rock oysters as well but you need to shuck them yourself – pre-opened oysters are a crime against nature.

My favourite car is…
I’m not really into cars, but I am waiting for the new Tesla to come out. I go to work on my electric bike.

My favourite place to travel is…
Italy (Carrara) and Bali (Ubud).

My favourite way to let off steam is…
boiling the kettle, playing tennis and sur ng but not all at the same time.

I reward myself by…
drinking chilled white wines – I like the biodynamic wines coming out now.

If I had more time I would…
make more artworks. It’s lucky I don’t as I probably already have made enough.

I’m most proud of…
my family, my friends and my art.

If I weren’t a doctor, I would be…
a singer (except I can’t sing a note).

Ultimate bucket list item?
I like a line from a Godard film, ‘I’d like to attain immortality then die.’

For enquiries call Ross Andrews on 0488 767 722 or Mark Andrews on 0448 030 424 or visit www.prolending.com.au

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