Guest ArtistFrame 61

Andrew Grassie

Guest ArtistFrame 61
Andrew Grassie

Born 1966, Edinburgh, the painter is currently living and working in London. He has exhibited his work at galleries such as Tate Britain, Maureen Paley London, Johnen Galerie Berlin, plus many more. We are very happy to be interviewing him about his work and daily practice. And as an added bonus he kindly gave us 3 new works (first 3 images below) that are exclusive to Floorr Magazine. Thanks Andrew:

Background: The walls of our family home in Edinburgh were covered in oil paintings, watercolours and charcoal drawings made by my father before I was born. I remember my sister and I both had some of our paintings discussed on TV, as my dad was brought in to discuss children’s art on some Black and White documentary… a possible high point in my career aged 4. So art was always around and I can’t remember thinking I’d do anything else.

Luckily I got into St Martins School of Art Foundation course in 1984 and moved to London where I’ve remained. It was all incredibly exciting at the time, hanging out around Charing Cross Rd and Soho, being surrounded by people discussing art all the time.

I was accepted into the Royal College straight after where postmodern arguments were flying around like bullets and then fell off the abyss and into a studio in Stoke Newington for many years. 

Medium/Egg Tempera: It was a mistake. An artist called David Tindle visited the RCA one day to give a talk on his work and his technique of tempera painting. I had been trying to achieve a fresco like finish on some large abstract works and gave tempera a try. It was completely inappropriate. However I stuck with it, reducing my egg cracking count from 12 to 2 a day making smaller and smaller works. I was changing styles so often at that time but the tempera remained constant. The way I use it, it has an opaque quality, a matter of factness I like. And it’s surface is flat flat flat.

The process? Well I use only six colours of pigment. I mix them up with egg yolk each day using the same tray, same pots and paint with the same brand of brushes. It’s become slightly ritualistic.

I’ve often fought against this in my head but the fact is it all adds up to a certain distillation of process within which there is a sort of freedom. 

Painting from photo's/ultra realist: I’m really not that interested in any attempt to be ‘ultra realist’ as you put it. I am drawn towards a certain objectivity and rationality but not so much because I believe this approach leads closer to some sort of truth, but in fact because it seems so weird and wonderful. To me the photograph gives me a set of rules to follow or at least interpret. As I mentioned, at the Royal College I’d been struggling, working through all the styles of painting of the 20th Century before I hit upon the notion of ‘copying’ several years after college.

Firstly I made copies of my own actual paintings, fakes as it were. Then I started copying photographs of my work and that of others in galleries. The relief was tremendous. Instead of making a new work, reaching forward into the void, I started to see the end goal before I had even started. All I had to do was to try to get there. Of course what was interesting was how the copy differed from the original. It seemed muffled, wrapped in a fine film, frozen. Qualities of stillness and silence that appeared as an inevitable part of this process. 

9.15      Arrive at studio.
9.20      Crack eggs and mix pigments.
9.30      Radio on, sit down to paint.
11.30    Move a little.
1.00      Bowl of soup at Portuguese Cafe.
4.30      Clean out paint tray.
4.45      Cycle home to family.
(Variant: 1.00 Jacket potato at Portuguese Cafe.)

Studio/swing a cat: I could swing a cat, possibly even by it’s tail without causing too much damage to studio or cat. It’s not luxurious but you’re reminding me I must do something about that. It’s in a small artists studio community in Tulse Hill, south London so there’s still a good dialogue going about art etc.

In a sense I have a studio within a studio. My desk. It’s contents, lights, boards etc have traveled with me to temporary studios all over the place if I‘ve needed to make sight specific work.

Future shows: I’ve just finished a show in Berlin I’ve been working on for a few years so I’m enjoying a brief and rare reflective moment. I’ll have a show at my gallery in London Maureen Paley next year and will hopefully participate in a show on Walter Benjamin’s book, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction later this year in New York.  You never know what’s coming round the corner. That’s one of the pleasures of it all.

Tips for young artists: That’s always hard. I guess just being there. If you manage to get yourself up and out and at it, whatever it is that constitutes work for you, and stick at it, you probably already have much of what it takes. So much after that is luck. 

Devoid of people: It’s a feeling that something has just happened or is about to happen. What’s for sure is that it’s not happening at that precise moment. Isn’t that just life!

Titles: I sometimes think if I could I’d avoid titles. At present they are very descriptive and function purely to identify groups of works. Even that’s a struggle.

Art Heroes/Heroines:: Not so much heroes and heroines…but…Vermeer, Morandi, Kenny Dalglish.

Maureen Paley website


Publishing date of this interview 08/03/16