Artist Andy Cross On Painting As A Meta-Language And His Latest Series Of Portraits
05 oct 2015 by art:i:curate team
New York based painter Andy Cross, is a graduate of Hunter College (NYC). He has exhibited internationally including solo exhibitions at Martos Gallery and the prestigious Maramotti Collection. We spoke to him about painting, his artistic practice and his creative process and vision behind his latest work, One Afternoon (Catherine).
AC: Leon Battista Alberti’s “Della Pictura” (On Pictures), written in 1436, claimed History Painting as the most important genre, followed by Portraiture. His hierarchy for subject matter is as follows: history paintings, portrait paintings, scenes from everyday life, landscapes, then paintings of animals and lastly the still life genre. The last century has added abstraction, minimalism and text-based work, as well as others to the list. It is less of a concern for me where these new genres fit into the Alberti’s original hierarchy. I love all painting. Contemporary painting is a meta-language, where every mark made by the artist has the potential to refer the knowledgeable viewer like a footnote. However, I have to agree with Alberti that History Painting and Portraiture are rightfully on top of the list. Simply from a technical standpoint alone to complete this type of painting requires a certain degree of mastery over each of the other genres.
One Afternoon (Catherine), 2015, oil on canvas, 61 x 76 x 2.5 cm, image courtesy of the artist.
I believe my portraits uphold this tradition, in terms of skill and likeness achieved. Yet, I approach the canvas with a very 'post-digital' sensibility using google searches, Photoshop and an inkjet printer to help plan and prepare each idea. These tools actually come second, I start like any other portrait artist before me, beginning with the 'sitter', painting him or her from life.
Little Richmond (Carrie), 2015, oil on canvas, 56 x 71 x 2.5 cm, image courtesy of the artist.
This part of the process is fun, while I paint, the sitter and I talk, the sitter begins to relax and eventually a 'natural pose' is arrived at. At this point all I have on the canvas is a loose "Matisse-like" paint sketch, but the basis of the composition is set, and the mood created. After the model leaves, I take the digital image into Photoshop, I cut and paste the person onto various backgrounds - maybe even give them a different t-shirt, etc. For example, in 'One Afternoon (Catherine)' the background lake and suburban house is added, as well as the 'space-nebula' t-shirt and even the kitten in her lap. These photoshopped additions transport the subject, adding to the narrative interpretation as well creating a contemporary context.
I also believe that throughout the history of painting, palettes help to define an artist and period as much as style. The Byzantine started the figure on a green ground, Venetians like Titian started on Venetian red, Rembrandt and the like on umber, then you have van Gogh using the complements of orange and blue, afterwards Matisse chose to twist the colour wheel and used pinks and greens.
The colours I have chosen are silver and yellow. Like complimentary colours there is an equivalent power in saturation, but these two visually oscillate back and forth as the predominant light source. If the silver catches the light, it is highly reflective and serves as the light source, yet if viewed from a slightly different angle and the silver is not catching the light, it pales to gray and the golden glow of yellow streams forth like the light source. This creates a very interactive viewing experience. I also find comfort in the yellow — it is not a skin tone that reveals any ethnicity or nationality, but symbolises a larger, universal humanism and spirituality. Silver on the other hand is not warm, but rather cold, clean, modern, even sci-fi.
These aspects together create a portrait that is at once familiar while at the same time contemporary and new.
Andy Cross in his studio, photo credit: Dario Lasagni.
Andy Cross is an American artist born in Richmond, VA and based in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his BA Fine Art in Painting/Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia (2001) and his MFA in Painting from Hunter College, New York (2005). His work is currently featured in “Color Against Color” at the Ortega y Gasset Art Projects in New York and he has previously exhibited in solo and group shows internationally including 'MIrror Venus', Sardine Gallery (New York, 2014); 'All-Mother', Cathouse FUNeral (New York, 2014); 'House Painter', Maramotti Collection (Reggio Emilia, 2013). His work is included in the Max Mara/Maramotti Family Collection, Italy.