About the Artist
Erik Andrew is a self-taught artist who has eschewed formal training in favor of exploring his own rich, strange artistic world. This exploration has taken many forms: from photography, designing and building furniture, to music and songwriting, his main passions before he found painting. The spirit of jazz improvisation has informed his development as a painter; Andrew empathizes with Thelonious Monk, the jazz innovator who said that when he finished a piece, he’d step back and chuckle at what he’d done. As Monk put it, “Jazz offers, encourages, celebrates skills of ear and brain and heart-not to mention fingers-which our classroom-based, book- and score-bound, sometimes assembly-line-style academic training has, by nature, somewhat overridden.” As painting became his primary form of artistic expression, Andrew consciously chose to avoid studying art history and viewing the traditional masterworks of painting as much as possible. He is the rare artist that rejects assimilation in favor of pursuing his own pure artistic vision.
His dedication to his own vision has yielded a significant body of visual art. The people and even the objects that populate Andrew’s paintings and drawings convey with remarkable skill both the humor and the absurdity of the human condition. Figures are exaggerated, bodies and expressions are distorted in ways that manage to simultaneously disturb and amuse; the effect is bizarre, funny and sometimes frightening. Andrew challenges and rewards the viewer, inviting one into the unsettling psychological landscapes in which he often finds his subjects. But Andrew’s figurative work showcases a more contemplative mood as well; this work situates calmer versions of the human form in quieter settings, making visual statements with tranquility and grace. These paintings highlight Andrew’s skill with composition and gradations of color and tone. Throughout his figurative pieces, his focus on detail is innovative as he zeros in on the unexpected, skewing dimension and space itself.
The inanimate, as rendered by Andrew, offers the same expressive possibilities most artists find only in the human face and form; still lifes poke fun at themselves and the viewer, unpeopled scenes bloom with poignancy. Andrew deploys foreshortened or other unusual perspectives to enhance his subject matter and to pull the viewer in. His more abstract canvases evince a fantastic playfulness with color; creating gorgeous, rich canvases that can be deceptively simple but brim with warmth and passion.
Andrew’s line drawings are often exhibited with his painted works, and they are noteworthy indeed; seldom short of hilarious, they juxtapose jaunty forms nonsensically with seemingly random objects, and, occasionally, snippets of deadpan text. The effect Andrew achieves with ink and pencil (and, here and there, touches of paint, pastel, or even shoe polish to add depth and dimension) is spectacularly obscure and funny, like unusually elegant postmodern one-frame comics.
A great strength of Andrew’s work is its refusal to become formulaic. He is a remarkably flexible and versatile artist; to know his work is to be eager to see what turn it will take next. Each piece and each series contemplates new ideas and renders them in a variety of convention-defying new ways, with humor and pathos the only constants.