|Artist’s Statement by Craig A. Andrews
A quick perusal of my art rèsumè will confirm that in the past eight years my focus has not been to garner a wide-ranging public response to my work. I have eschewed formal shows while I have been crossing major borders in my growth as a painter. Only recently have I begun to feel that my work has succeeded to the point where it is time to unveil it.
Painting has always been a deeply personal journey for me but not one I have been willing to travel on a saddle laden with the pedantries of my career as an educator, despite my stints as a summer school art instructor—during which I discovered that I am less-than-inspired to guide students through rote methodology of painting. All of this is to say that it has been my tendency to separate my passion for painting from the demands of a straight job. Rather, painting has been the focus of my personal studies, travels, and philosophical meanderings. It is a vocation that still feels very new to me although I have been painting for more than thirty years.
My earliest exhibitions featured work heavily reliant on controlled symbolic representations of landscape. However, this early work failed to benefit from all of the possible effects of paint. Currently, landscape remains a focus of my themes because it continues to be one of the greatest sources of inspiration for me. What has happened, though, in a process that remains mysterious to me, is that my work (and my ideas about what my work should be) has become transformed by the notion of narrative.
I seek to create beautiful, finished pieces that depict my response to scenery by simultaneously telling the story of how they were painted. This is a challenge. Given my focus on narrative painting, it would seem that any subject or image could be utilized for the purpose of this sort of storytelling. But if that is the case, then what does a person paint? Frequently, I attempt to let the paint decide that for itself. Less and less often am I employing studies in preparation for major works. Instead, I am attempting to let the process that is often worked out in studies evolve on the actual canvas. In so doing, I am attempting to preserve evidence of where the painting has been and how it has evolved into its finished state. Because of this approach, I have become a slow painter. It is not infrequent for a work to evolve over a year or two and then to face the deletion of coarse sand paper—or to be whited over, perhaps with a few windows remaining of its former self. It is a fascinating and confounding process. But the result is a story. The closer a viewer approaches the canvas, the more the picture dissolves into the bits of evidence that make up its previous lives.
For me, then, what is most interesting about painting is the paint itself; that is the subject. The forms and associations evoked by the paint are mere vehicles for the larger story: the history of how the canvas came to appear the way it now does. Sometimes, even a pencil outline will persistently peak through a thin patch of wash. I let it live if it seems to have a place. It is part of the painting’s history … part of that process of creation that would normally be subsumed beneath the transformations of the surface.
It is, therefore, my hope that my paintings can be experienced in the same way that a geologist can experience a stunning geological landscape. To the geologist looking at an eroded bluff of Death Valley, all of the factors that made that bluff reveal themselves to his trained eye. He can see where the sea once lay, where the water once ran, and where the wind has whittled a soft outcrop into a pinnacle. He can see where the hand of time has been evident, and often the history of the landscape is beyond drama. Sometimes, the finished product, viewed from across the valley of time, is … beautiful.