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‘Turneresque Expressionism’ at the Kave Gallery

At first glance, the Barry Andrews exhibition at the Kave Gallery looks like a collection of striking abstract paintings.  But is it?  HOT reporter Cathy Simpson talks to the artist about his life and work.

Barry was born in 1951 in Epping, now based in Hadleigh in Essex, and graduated with a Fine Art degree from East London University in 2010 as a mature student.  He has been an artist all his life – but only now understands why he felt different from most folk caught up in the maelstrom for survival.  Kave Gallery owner, Mark Orbell, described his work as ‘Turneresque Expressionism’, and the comparison with that Romantic painter is a telling one.

Romanticism implies a total connection between the painter and his work;  his soul is in there, even with the humblest pieces of subject matter.  Barry states that:

“As a starting point, I walk and make drawings of the estuary along the north banks of the River Thames, these images are metaphors for the constant that is life….

The industrial river landscape offers a harsh yet inspiring vista. There are gems to be found in squalid architecture, graphics, graffiti, abandoned relics, detritus and the people.”

And what a vision!

These oil paintings are built up in many layers, reminiscent of the layers of history which comprise his beloved Thames estuary, and though they have the initial impact of pure colour of Abstract Expressionism – reminiscent of the work of Mark Rothko – their roots lie in the 19th century, with Turner.  I asked him outright “I first thought these paintings were abstract.  But they aren’t, are they?”  “No,” he replied. “They’re all representational”.

Fishtank, oil on canvas

Fishtank, oil on canvas

The viewer needs to spend time contemplating these pieces, just as you might a work by Turner – and will be rewarded by an ever-unfolding vista.  Forms which are hinted at by expertly-placed marks take on more familiar shapes, landscapes emerge from the sensual strokes of the brush and Barry’s own personal symbolism becomes universal.  Titles often relate to a specific moment and will pin the landscape to that point in time, whilst the image of the landscape remains monumental and eternal.

Colours are alive, vibrant and positively sing – turquoise is juxtaposed with cerise, with orange; brilliant blues leap from the canvas. Violets and yellows compete for dominance, luscious reds lie in crimson glory.  The sensuality continues in the quality of the brushstrokes.  Here is an artist who loves paint, not to dominate and control it, but to let it speak for itself.  The brushstrokes are clearly visible as the tracks of the artist’s hand, but then assume a life of their own as they become other forms – and represent the agitation of the environment which inspired the work.

A13, oil on canvas

A13, oil on canvas

Barry’s work finds dignity even in the most mundane;  the title ‘A13’ refers to just that:

“Commuters escape along the A13 trunk road, crossing the QE2 Bridge and disappearing through Kent into France and beyond, or back towards London seeking fame and fortune.”

It is a commentary on the transitory nature of the population of Essex and East London, but, paradoxically, he has actually made something fine and enduring from the ephemeral.

This exhibition is a treat for the senses.  It is inspiring, humbling, thought-provoking, but above all, sensual and pleasurable.  As Barry puts it:

“This ferocious activity informs my palette, the use of colour and subverting of the painterly surfaces represents the harsh reality of life along with its tenderness and fragility, a reminder that there is hope, and often hope is all we have.”

Barry Andrews’ exhibition runs for two weeks from October 6 at The Kave Gallery, 8 Kings Road, St Leonards-on-Sea  TN37 16EA



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Posted 09:04 Monday, Oct 8, 2012 In: Visual Arts

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