“What’s more beautiful than a blank canvas with infinite possibilities? When there is no plan for a painting it usually starts with making a mess on the canvas, maybe with a little structure … and out of that mess, with luck, comes some sort of form, some sort of direction, a story.”
By Tatty Martin | 27 Oct 2021
Andrew Crane is a contemporary painter based in Northumberland. Andrew started his practise in typography and graphics before developing his unique abstract visual language. Many of Andrew’s materials come from hardware shops as he combines cement and plaster with varnishes to give his paintings a thick, textural quality.
We caught up with Andrew to learn more about the evolution of his practise, artists he’s inspired by and what he’s got planned next.
How would you describe the art you create?
I’m not sure that I create it. Sometimes there’s a feeling of being painted. Those are the good times. They may be fleeting, but for me, the measure of success of a painting is the amount of ‘Where did that come from!?’ when it’s finished. The start is always the biggest hurdle. What’s more beautiful than a blank canvas with infinite possibilities? When there is no plan for a painting it usually starts with making a mess on the canvas, maybe with a little structure…and out of that mess, with luck, comes some sort of form, some sort of direction, a story.
With cement as a ground it’s easier, because the flaws in the plastering can give clues to what’s next. One thing leads to another. Numbers may creep in, or letters – a leftover from training as a typographer perhaps. I do love numbers. They are so familiar, yet so abstract, such interesting human symbols.
What are the fundamental messages you want to get across with your work?
There is an attempt to jog myself (and, with luck, the viewer) out of the familiar, while using the annoyingly familiar to do so. A sort of surrealising of the abstract. To lead the viewer and myself into a place of un-knowing is perhaps a place of innocence. In that place of not knowing, there is a chance of intimacy. Preconception is gloriously sacrificed in exchange for innocent enquiry. Indeed, in the end, if more questions than answers arise, so much the better. I guess the overriding question throughout is, ‘Who am I’?
Have you always been drawn to abstract art or is it something that has evolved with your practice?
Definitely an evolution. Early works were ‘traditional’ oils and watercolours. A seminal moment came when working on one such piece, destined for an imminent show. This piece was not going well and exasperation was setting in. My studio, at the time, was an empty warehouse…and in a corner I spotted a bag of cement. I thought ‘What if…?’ Well, I mixed up the cement and spread it all over the painting. To my surprise and delight, this plastered surface took paint rather well. I still have that painting. It is a reminder to me to not ‘force the plan’, but allow alternatives.
What’s an average day like in your studio? Do you tend to work on more than one painting at a time?
I did a painting called Average Day. An average day is usually turning up in the morning and looking at what happened yesterday. That first glimpse of yesterday’s work is often very informative. Things not seen yesterday, will likely appear…and off we go. There’s always a lot of looking. Sometimes there’s more looking than painting. I’m pretty strict with working routine. 8 til 5 usually, with a break for walking with the dog. Living in such a beautiful area is a real resource! I like to have at least one other painting ‘waiting’ (and in view) at the same time.
How do you go about titling your work?
Sometimes a title will offer itself during the painting, but more often it arrives late. The titling process, for me is intuitive. The title is either ‘right’ or it isn’t, there’s no inbetween. It’s definitely an ‘in the moment’ decision.
What/Who are your other influences and inspirations?
A shortlist of the greats would be the 3 Ts: Turner, Tapies and Twombly; Diebenkorn: Guston, for his bravery in changing tack; Duchamp and Cage… especially Cage; Raoul De Keyser, David Ostrowski, Joe Bradley (definitely) . Stanley Whitney I love. Alfred Wallis, Kimber Smith, Thierry de Cordier, Andy Fischer, Dieter Roth…and of course, Joseph Beuys. Northumberland too.
Who are some Rise Art artists with work you’re enjoying at the moment?
Are you currently working on any exciting new projects?
I’ve just finished a large piece for a luxury villa in Andalusia. Apart from that, just turning up to paint is exciting enough.
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