Our February’s Manc of the Month is the one and only Andy Smith. We met Andy at our ‘In Manchester’ exhibition, and he has been with us for a couple of our Art All Dayer events. His work is so varied, from cityscapes to life-drawing, more sculptural pieces to abstract work. We chatted with Andy about how he got into art and about what projects he is working on too. Read on to find out more.
Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself and your work to our Cotton On Manchester readers
Andy Smith: ‘My name is Andy Smith and I’ve been a practicing artist for over 30 years. Working mainly in Community Art until moving more into Fine Art since graduating from the University of Bolton in 2015.’
‘My practice explores iconography from two perspectives; one representational and one abstract. This approach means I can look at the power of the word and the image from both the literal and the conceptual.’
COM: Tell us about how you became an artist, where/what did you study?
AS: ‘Art has always been my educational vehicle of choice. I found traditional academic structures difficult to negotiate. Learning became much easier with the freedom to be curious that an arts course brings.’
‘The 4 years of BA/MA study was a life changing professional and personal experience. The practice development possibilities opened up from the start and continue to expand.’
COM: What would you say is the highlight of your career so far?
AS: ‘Combining full time studies with child caring responsibilities was a testing period, but this helped me understand the impact of domestic circumstances on one’s practice. I think I understand more now how some artists through history have faced greater barriers than others which puts much of the canon in a different context.’
COM: Do you have a favourite piece/a piece of work you are most proud of?
AS: Standing as an Independent candidate in the 2015 general election with a semi abstract painting as the manifesto. The project was part of my MA and was an attempt to analyse the electoral system at first hand using art as a vehicle to explore ways of moving away from the tired methods of political discourse.’
‘The vote went to a recount and I only got to bed at 8am – to then have to get up an hour later to install the work at Castlefield Gallery for the opening that same night….talk about life in the fast lane!’
COM: What is the best exhibition you have visited and why?
AS: ‘Lucian Freud at the Pompidou in 2010. Realising the power of slow painting to evoke the serenity that can come with devotional labour.’
COM: What do you think of Manchester’s art scene?
AS: ‘After uni, I tried to find places that supported the themes I was developing, and not being one to spend time filling online submissions and proposals, I hoped instead to meet and work with proactive and inclusive people and groups to build up a sustainable professional and personal trust. Luckily, in Manchester there are ample opportunities and platforms to get your work out there without compromising your core work values. I also co-founded Standard Collective as another way to exhibit as part of a supportive group.’
COM: What are your hobbies and interests outside of art?
AS: ‘Growing fruit and veg is the main favourite waste of time over the last few years (watching football aside). The seasons provide an endlessly evolving variety of choices in terms of learning, nurturing and creating the environment to develop links between the practical and the poetic.’
COM: What’s next? Do you have any new projects, or any exhibitions coming up?
AS: ‘I’m currently in the Manchester Open at HOME and will be working towards two STANDARD exhibitions this year, one in summer in Germany (restrictions permitted) and one at Rogue Studios in December. I’m lucky to be associated with Cross St Arts and Castlefield Gallery and both offer many ways to be involved and contribute. There will be the usual phenomenal variety of local open calls, plus, fingers crossed, I can find time to showcase my drawings at a Cotton On MCR: Art All Dayer!’
COM: (We hope!) Last questions, if you could live in any painting/artwork, which would it be?
AS: ‘Bathers at Asniéres by Georges Seurat. The last two years have been different for everybody but who isn’t ready for an easy day or two in the sun watching the world go by?’