Briefly describe the work you do.
Think decorative but darkly playful portraits of elaborately coiffed girls, using a combination of acrylics, pencil and spray paint on vintage wallpaper and customized shaped boards. You might say that my paintings are a way for me to act out all my unfulfilled hair, tattoo and style fantasies….
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I’ve always loved drawing, painting and making things, and as a kid was usually faffing about with some little creative project rather than running round outside. I’m an only child who spent lots of time in my own company while growing up, and preferred to amuse myself most of the time. Art was my favourite subject at school, and I continued with it on and off while at university, but it wasn’t until I was working full-time that I found I really needed something else to sustain me so cranked up the productivity a few notches.
Although I have an MA in Art History and a Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts, I don’t think my current practice is really informed that directly by them. I spent all these years learning about conceptual art and theory only to turn my back on it and just do what I enjoyed more, which – to put it bluntly – is painting pretty stuff I would want to hang on my wall.
Punk culture was probably one of the more significant discoveries for me in my early teen years, and I’ve really taken on board the DIY approach in most things I do. Where my friends formed bands (I did attempt to play guitar for a while), I applied this to art; if you decide you want to be an artist, just be one, paint the things you want to paint, and don’t worry about the prevailing currents. Make some prints, list them online, maybe even sell a few, and hey you’re doing it, you’re an artist.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My studio is my happy place! For the past few years I’ve lived in flats where I’ve rented two smaller rooms for the price of a larger one and then made one into my art studio; this is a very convenient option for someone who’s generally pretty lazy and refuses to leave the house unless I absolutely have to.
Essential studio items: music, coffee, beer, my cat, incense.
Basically it looks like a teenager’s messy bedroom, with a small space cleared away on the floor where I sit and paint because I’m a spreader-outer. This is contrasted with my favourite studio item, an amazing set of plan drawers where I store my prints, which is organised and tidy (possibly the only thing in my life that is).
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
All the things! In addition to the fun bits, I’ve found myself doing such deeply painful tasks as completing my own tax return and using spreadsheets. Pricing is the biggest ugh of all. Not really to say that I haven’t envisioned being forced to do all those tasks though, when you make the decision to take the DIY approach, you expect to be wearing many hats (even ugly hats that don’t suit you!) I do appreciate the skills I’ve learned in packaging up art works to courier though, there’s something oddly satisfying about that part…
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Night time, hands down. I work standard office hours 8.30am till 5pm, and will often come home and nap for a couple of hours and then get up and paint into the night. On a few occasions this has turned into all-nighters when I’ve got deadlines, which makes me a bit of a caffeine-fuelled zombie in the office the next day.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
The most significant changes are probably in scale; I’ve gone both bigger (over the past 8 or so months I’ve undertaken my first street art commissions), and smaller (works on coasters for the annual Coaster show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in LA, which were about ten times smaller than my usual paintings). I’ve started using hinges in some pieces to create votive type images, and I think my girls seem to be getting more tattooed as well. In terms of what’s the same, I just can’t seem to get away from the female face as my preferred subject matter, and I’m still really into using shaped board and wallpaper as my surfaces.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My Grandad was a heraldic artist, and although the work he did was very different to my own – I can imagine the look he would have had on his face if I draw too much of a comparison here! – there are certain elements of my style that are grounded in the same kind of approach he had (attention to detail, aesthetically balanced compositions, graphic or illustrative in nature, use of symbols to convey meaning about people).
My boyfriend is also an artist (with more of a focus on screen-printing), and we’ve had exhibitions together and recently collaborated on some street pieces. It totally makes things easier having a partner who understands the last minute rush to get a piece finished, or who you can have a moan to about the trials and tribulations involved in commissioned work, etc.
In terms of the wider world, I guess I just allow all the things I like to get thrown into the art mix, whether deliberately or more subliminally: a combination of punk rock, lowbrow art, books and fashion, and all the wonderful and inspiring weirdos who create them. And cats, don’t forget cats…
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Given that my office job involves administration of doctoral programmes in a university, in a way I feel that further study is always beckoning, but I don’t think I’m ready for it yet; the thought of writing another thesis makes me makes me want an emergency beer…
I found an old notebook I wrote in when I was seven that listed my dream jobs as puppeteer (I was obsessed with the movie ‘Labyrinth’), author, or librarian. So yeah, anything nerdy/creative, that’s me. Or professional gambler…
Operating within that delightful current of contemporary art known as ‘lowbrow,’ Andy uses a combination of acrylic, pencil and spray paint on vintage wallpaper and board, and her work is part drawing, part painting, with an emphasis on patterning and detail.
In addition to original paintings, she produces a range of affordable limited edition giclée prints, on Epson Watercolour art paper using archival quality inks, and has also recently undertaken a number of street art commissions.
Andy holds a BA (Honours, First Class) and MA (Distinction) in Art History and Theory from the University of Otago and a Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts from Massey University. In 2012, her work was selected for publication in the Curvy 8 book, an annual showcase of young female artists and designers from around the world (http://curvy-world.com/books/curvy-eight/).
She is represented in Dunedin by Gallery de Novo, and has also exhibited work in a number of galleries throughout New Zealand and Australia.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.