A Clarity of Vision: The Legacy of Chris Andrews
Chris Andrews was the kind of artist all too rare. His enquiring mind seemed always to be looking at the world afresh and in different ways, teasing hitherto unseen things from it, and constantly trying to develop new ways to express those insights. I remember often just looking at whatever was his latest work spellbound and trying to find ways to express the absolute enchantment I felt. His work spoke directly to the spectator, and so there was never any need for translation or explanation. I saw this effect on the faces of so many who knew Chris. They ‘got’ it, straight in the guts of the emotional mind. He was an inspiration to them, almost a Magician. I mean, from where on earth did he conjure up these amazing things?!
His formidable artistic intelligence was multifaceted, and he had the great imaginative gift of being both observant and intuitive on the one hand- seeing things clearly that nobody else around him could see- as well as possessing a superior analytical faculty to interpret, develop and refine these ideas.
In his pursuit of perfection, Chris wasn’t the kind of artist who is the sole practitioner of any one artistic medium. He embraced all genres and techniques for the development of his ideas. For Chris would often explore and attempt to push media and materials (many rather unusual), so as to discover new hints and directions in his practice. Letting the practice itself suggest new tangents and courses of action, and open new doors. This process seemed to drive his course through his short but intense artistic career, roughly between the years 1991 to 1998.
He also relished finding the unfamiliar in the everyday, in the things around him; and seemed at some points, to want to make art that ‘fitted’ back into everyday life. As when he posited the idea to me about creating a ‘display’ of his sculptures in his bedsit window for passers-by. But aspects of this idea can also be seen in many of the works themselves; for example, the crystal clear and poetic are all compressed into say, a modified lightbulb or (the ghost of) a soot drawing.
Many people comment on Chris’s unorthodox choices of materials. Things like hair and soot for example. Of course, he wasn’t the first to use materials like these for art and he knew it. But he was capable of taking pointers, from other art where necessary, without fear of repetition.
I think at this stage it is important to mention how extraordinary well read Chris was. All his art was created in the fullest knowledge of developments in contemporary art (as if I really need to state that). Chris in short was a ‘player’. He knew the significance of his work, but was never EVER the kind of artist to hide behind feeble theoretical justifications and postures. He was his own most severe critic and too astute to sit on his laurels (attained at such a young age) and career into a safe art ‘career’ (define that as you wish). No, without anything to say, he would say nothing. And this intense self questioning (a feature I have never seen in anybody else with the fervor that I saw in him) was I believe one of the things that made Chris such an astute, sensitive and clever writer and critic. Combined with his integrity, empathy and love of life. His writings (soon to be published) demonstrate a wit, insight and vitality that were such an antidote to all the artsy-fartsy dross that we used to come across.
In conclusion, I may well be accused of bias towards Chris, or even of eulogizing him. Well, if that’s a risk, then it’s one I’m willing to take. So if you, dear reader, have other opinions, please feel free express them!
Gideon Hall (11/4/13)