ANDY BLACK: GARDEN

An exhibition of recent drawings by Andy Black

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27th September – 1st November 2014
Thursdays – Saturdays, 11.00 am – 4.00 pm
and by appointment.
Admission is free.

Andy Black’s drawings are intriguing and nothing is  quite as straightforward as might first appear.  Plant-like organisms seem disciplined by the geometry  of topiary, rock-like outcrops stand monumentally  erect, other motifs hint at architectural landmarks.  Explore these ‘landscapes’ in his exhibition ‘Garden’  and drawing installation ‘Big Garden’ at Crescent Arts  and Crescent Artspace, Queen Street this October.

Further information on the artist:   

Andy Black’s drawings evoke distinct feelings of dislocation and timelessness,  which serve to amplify an unsettling mood that permeates his work. The  environment is drawn, depicted in sharp relief enhanced by the clarity and  contrast of a strong single source of illumination. Long shadows seem  characteristic of a northern autumn or winter evening when the sun is low  and its light is intense. There is a sense of stillness – as when the wind drops  in the early evening – and that time has stopped.

These drawings can be approached as landscapes. The compelling feelings of  dislocation and unearthly atmosphere are anchored by the stillness, inviting  closer examination. In the process, a tension starts to mount caused by the subtle  intrusion of the unfamiliar, an increasing awareness of ambiguities, which  confound the reading and derail any sense of familiarity and conventional  navigation of the image as landscape. The configuration of elements, which  inhabit and form the spaces mapped out in the drawings, become increasingly  enigmatic and evade any attempt to give them rational coherence.

At the same time, the laws of gravity and pictorial representation seem to prevail  with most elements resting firmly on a ground that, in the absence of any other,  is the white paper on which they’re drawn. There is no sign of an horizon or any  finite indication of scale in the drawing. It’s far from certain whether these are  macrocosmic landscapes seen from an elevated viewpoint, aerial perspectives,  or microcosmic worlds – in any case invisible to the naked eye.  Heightened awareness of perspective, altitude and vantage point, the lack of horizon  and clustering within elliptical boundaries, creates the feeling of peering through a lens.

The bringing together of several drawings reveals much more about the artist’s intentions  and methodology. It becomes apparent that there is a repertoire, or more accurately a  lexicon, of motifs upon which the artist draws and which recur and accumulate within  the works.  This is made explicit in the drawing ‘Index’, 2014, which catalogues these motifs and  even assigns a number to each, 1-126.

It’s not unusual for an artist to work within a limited range of imagery, or to revisit the same  subject matter repeatedly. Andy Black’s systematic approach to the construction of ‘landscapes’  bears some comparison to that of the Italian artist Georgio de Chirico, founder of the ‘scuola  metafisica’ group of artists in the early 1900s. De Chirico’s paintings of metaphysical town  squares are imbued with a similar atmosphere and populated by an assemblage of obscure  objects, equivalent to Andy Black’s index of motifs, which intensify the sense of dislocation  between past and present.

The motifs assembled in Andy Black’s work owe something to drawings of anthropomorphic  cartoon or animation characters and ‘props’ that, despite enduring all kinds of tragi-comic batterings,  are somehow indestructible. The artist’s lexicon is reminiscent of but far more ambiguous and enigmatic  than recognisable cartoon fare, and the more whimsical, goofy characteristics are tempered by  understatement in the drawing. The American artist Philip Guston is an influence, in particular his  later post-abstract work. Guston drew extensively, as a means to interrogate ideas for paintings, with  equivalent borrowings from the genres of contemporary cartoon and animation.

Andy Black’s ‘Index’ bears closer scrutiny. Nothing is quite as straightforward as might first appear.

It’s a curious assortment of items, difficult to distinguish clearly between the animate, inanimate,  organic and purely geometric with so many hybrid variants in-between. Plant-like organisms seem  disciplined by the geometry of topiary, rock-like outcrops stand monumentally erect, other items hint  at architectural landmarks, primitive tools, fetishes or the accoutrements of ritual. The numbering in  ‘Index’ lends it the spirit of crazy golf; a crater or a hole could equally be a solid seen in silhouette.  Motifs recur, never in identical form, and some operate in pairs, small groups, variable clusters or  unpredictable combinations. Neither indexical stratagem nor numerical ordering are designed to  provide a dependable means of navigation. Instead they cross the threshold of poetic legend.

Andy Black is an artist based in Scarborough. His work has been exhibited widely in solo and groups  shows including Jerwood Drawing Prize, 2013, ‘Fields and Gardens’ at Duckett and Jeffreys, 2012,  ‘Forests’ at Ryedale Folk Museum, 2010, and ‘Real writers Residency’ at G39, Cardiff, 2007. Born in  north Wales, Andy studied Fine Art at UWIC, Cardiff and subsequently at the Royal College of Art,  2000 – 2002. In 2010 he was a selector for East Coast Open at Scarborough Art Gallery and was  long-listed for the Northern Art Prize in 2009. Andy currently lectures in Fine Art and  Art History at Yorkshire Coast College.