Gagosian London is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings by the late Michael Andrews (1928–1995).
For the last twenty-five years of his life, Andrews was preoccupied with four series of landscapes—Lights, Scotland, Ayers Rock/Australia, and English Landscape—as well as School, a series depicting different groups of fish. In this exhibition, selected works from the five related series will be presented through the lens of three elemental themes: earth, air, and water.
Though associated with painters of the so-called School of London, such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, and Frank Auerbach, for their exploration of the human form and eschewal of abstraction, Andrews produced radically different work. With a few exceptions, his paintings after 1970 are devoid of people, though not without an implied human presence or drama.
The heightened or dreamlike realism that Andrews achieved after 1970 was partly the result of his painting with a spray gun and water-based acrylic paint, which allowed him to cover the canvas with large expanses of a single color, from airy and atmospheric to intense and saturated. No other British artist in the second half of the twentieth century has immersed himself in the elements of landscape to such an extent. “It seems to me impossible not to paint religious landscapes of aboriginal Australia,” he wrote in 1986, “just as it is almost impossible not to paint historical landscapes in Scotland.”
The exhibition begins with a small section devoted to the Colony Room, the private members’ drinking club in Soho frequented by Bacon, Freud, Andrews, Auerbach, and other bohemians, with a late-1950s large landscape mural that Andrews painted for the club appearing alongside his celebrated 1962 painting, The Colony Room.
At the core of the exhibition are paintings from the seven-part cycle of the 1970s that Andrews called Lights. Here, the viewer observes or imagines a gas balloon floating over a succession of landscapes—from field to sea, from Waterloo Bridge to Brighton Pier—in search of an ideal resting place. The title of the series derives from Arthur Rimbaud’s famous suite of prose poems, Les Illuminations. Influenced by his reading of Zen Buddhist thought and the ideas of ’60s countercultural figures such as R.D. Laing, Andrews interpreted the balloon as a symbol of the ego encased in a bag of skin and its search for a landing place as a quest for unselfconsciousness.
In the School paintings, magically luminous depictions of fish in water contain a metaphor for human interdependence, continuing Andrews’s interest in group behavior as first seen in his “party” pictures of the 1960s, The Deer Park, All Night Long, and Good and Bad at Games.
During his lifetime, Andrews disdained publicity, coming to prominence with an Arts Council exhibition in 1980. Michael Andrews: Earth Air Water is the first substantial exhibition of Andrews’s work in over fifteen years, containing more than sixty works borrowed from private and public collections, including twenty large canvases and an exceptional group of watercolors. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue written by the exhibition’s curator, Richard Calvocoressi, director and senior curator at Gagosian London, who knew Andrews and organized two exhibitions of his work during his lifetime.
From the Quarterly
Michael Andrews: Air
Richard Calvocoressi sheds light on one series of paintings from his latest curatorial endeavor, the Earth Air Water exhibition in London.
Michael Andrews: Elusive Painter
Narrated by Richard Calvocoressi, this video, featuring unseen archival material, is a biographical overview of the late British painter.