Open Interpretations - Artist Profile

Open Interpretations - Artist Profile

Vanessa Neems

Creative Juice April/May 2007

Andrew Farquhar thoroughly enjoys watching paint dry.

Click to see full article with images from Creative Juice Pg's 6-7

Pic: 06) Tauranga artist Andrew Farquhar switched teaching art to being a full-time artist just over one year ago.
Pic: 15) Andrew Farquhar's paintings are open to interpretation. "I like that there is multiple interpretations, to me that's more rewarding.

Andrew Farquhar thoroughly enjoys watching paint dry.

"It's very rewarding and that's what keeps me going back," says Andrew. "I've never produced that painting that makes me think, yup you've done it".

Despite this, the Tauranga artist says his paintings now sum up 20 years of art development, and having narrowed it all down, he is now happy with his work and says it is well received.

Each painting has 80-100 layers of paint and Andrew says as he goes through there are "beautiful moments" happening. "I start keeping these as history of the paint then something else happens so I keep that," says Andrew. "These marked off sections become statements of the history of the painting." The paintings are open to interpretation. "I like that there is multiple interpretations, to me that's more rewarding. I want the viewing audience to live and breath it' pull apart grids, make connections, then lose it all and start again," says Andrew.

"These paintings attempt to engage, they (viewers) start to look and find things and discuss things. That's what I have always wanted, I've never been interested in paintings which have a narrative. I'm interested in paintings that have their own narrative."

Andrew works on just one painting at a time, saying otherwise it feels like a production line. He says his work evolves as his thinking changes.

Previously a secondary school art teacher, his most recent position with Katikati College, Andrew made the switch to full-time artist just over one year ago. "I went into secondary school teaching art, I thrived on teaching art and talking about it all day. Watching students do art, I became addicted in the end."

Inspired to take his own art more seriously, Andrew now looks forward to heading down to his studio each day at 7.30am. "I get to think all day, listen to music and I enjoy my own company."

The switch was also motivated by a health scare in 2002, when Andrew had an unforeseen brain haemorrhage which saw him hospitalised for several weeks and spending 12 weeks off work. But Andrew says it took the best part of two years to recover as it was physically draining, causing him to be fatigued and unable to do anything he would normally. "You think you are alright but everyone else knows you are not." Andrew didn't paint for three years following the brain haemorrhage, transforming from someone who painted everyday of his life for as many hours as he could, to someone who would go down to his board, sit there, look at it and then walk away.

Having begun painting at Palmerston North Teachers College in the early 80s, Andrew gathered much inspiration and knowledge from tutors along the way. In fact the very first assessment proved to be a kick-start for Andrew, who having worked hard on his painting, thought he had nailed the assignment. Other students emerged with A's and B's, and knowing his painting was stronger than the others, thought this will be brilliant. However receiving a C, lecturer David Aitken said "there's no doubt you can handle a paintbrush but can you paint?"

Deciding he needed to know a bit more about art, Andrew headed to the library and to this day remains a voracious reader of art and art philosophy. Lecturers Frank Davis and Paul Dibble (who recently completed New Zealand's sculpture in Hyde Park, London) also became influential for Andrew, often working one-on-one together.

Once he completed training college, Andrew says he set out to paint furiously, working all day, coming home and painting until 2am-3am. "Every six weeks or so I would catch up and sleep all day," laughs Andrew.

Around this time Andrew became more inspired by figurative works and applied a more technical side to painting, while he also became more dissatisfied with painting reality, with an awareness it was just recording.

Becoming more interested in the concepts of art, American painter Nachume Miller's concept of minimalism was a major influence on Andrew's direction at this point.

Utilising minimalism and spatial depth, Andrew became more adventurous and moved into abstract painting. He progressed from using oils to adding wax for a translucent layering, then after a few years moved into cold wax for a 3D effect and, eventually becoming frustrated by wax, began using acrylics in 2000. "I had never used acrylics before that so was a frustrating process. Everything I had learnt with oils I had to unlearn with acrylics."

Now back to good health, Andrew used three years away from painting to "pull the guts out of all he had done" and realised he had lost sight of his original intention - to adopt the five concepts: depth, light, surface, interval and space.

"I wanted to use an illusion of spatial depth, layers of paint and introduce a more geometric approach," says Andrew. "The first years of art is like making pizza, you are experimenting, throwing in a lot of what influences you, and somewhere on the way you refine that and narrow it down. It becomes simple. Once work becomes simple you start to enjoy it."

Andrew can look at his paintings over the years and see a correlation, whereas most people would say its two different people. "My paintings are about paint' they are a journey of their own evolution," says Andrew. "I start off by laying tracks, I place lines and those lines form DNA of the work, the lines determine scale and proportion."

Andrew, whose work is known as AFraction Fine Art, eventually aims to paint as simply as Irish artist Felim Egan.

Having done various solo and group exhibitions, Andrew is looking forward to his upcoming exhibition at ROW Gallery in Wharf St during August. It will be his first Tauranga exhibition.