17 Oct Featured: Audrey Anderson
Born in Sunnyside, Pretoria, Audrey Anderson now lives and works in Johannesburg – with her current studio located at New ARC Studios, Newtown. Turning everyday moments into narratives through her art, Audrey enjoys the act of drawing and the flexibility it provides to support her process. Recently we spoke to her to find out more.
Tell us more about yourself and your background…
I started my arts education at Pro Arte Alpen Park from where I matriculated. I left home at the end of my matric year because I did not want to study what my father told me to study (accounting, pharmacy ect). I started working basic jobs, selling paintings to save up to study fine arts. Fortunately my grandfather, mom, and aunty sponsored my studies after one year of struggles. I graduated at The University of Pretoria with a BA fine arts (honors) degree, specializing in narrative drawing.
After graduation I worked abroard as a junior art director in Dubai on the Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah Project. I returned to SA and started developing my art career here. I exhibited locally and internationally, including project-solo shows at Gordart (Johannesburg – 2008) and Brundyn + Gonsalves (Cape Town – 2009-2010). In 2011 I took part in my first international art fair at the Amsterdam Affordable Art Fair. This year I participated in a few big projects connected with Creative Block, Spier Architecture, Hollard. I was also selected to be part of the emerging artist curated show at the first Turbine Art Fair (Johannesburg) featuring my works in wine.
I was nominated this year as one of 5 artists to participate in the Nandos UK National Artwork project. I was selected as one of their three favorite African artists. My work was then exhibited at an Official Launch in London. The selected work is now part of the Nandos UK Collection. My professional arts practice has also extended to illustration projects with publishers, advertisers, performers and musicians.
Personally: I am always curious and on an investigation. I enjoy the company of people and cats. I am very observant and sensitive to emotion expressed by other people. I have a strong recall memory, like an elephant, that mainly remembers inconsequential things.
When did you realise that being an artist was something you wanted to, and could, become?
Now if I look back, it was a belief that existed deep inside me, like a knowing that is where and what I am meant to be. There was never really a moment that started it all, it was rather a series of acceptance that keeps going today. When I thought about steering away from my art practise, an opportunity would come collect me, to create more.
How have you gone about pursuing this? What’s your journey been so far?
I studied a BA in Fine Arts, this was a great start for me. I just kept creating works during university days and after. I always have a mind full of artworks waiting to happen. I have kept the world updated (whoever is interested) via social networks and online platforms. I have also planned exhibitions every year, with other artists or in new spaces (not just in galleries). I also get involved in the arts industry by going to workshops, talks, conferences, exhibitions, and being a member of an arts organisation. I have a studio, this makes such a big difference, being at a collective studio is better than hiding away creating work on my own. And…I also always say yes, and if there is no time I find time.
What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a show created with wine and coffee so I am reflecting on where I will steer this body of work (what’s next for wine and coffee). There are talks of a collab project with another artist working with wine. Now I am working on some very large ink works based on my understanding of the city and the people in it. I am not sure just yet about the concept, but it’s about what if Joburg suffered the same fate as Atlantis (under water) and no one has noticed that it has happened. Just a sneaking suspicion that changes are happening.
What mediums do you work with?
Pine, supa wood, ink, paper, wine and coffee.
Give us some insight regarding your process…
Step 1: I start out just by observing the world around me, people, their body language, the space therein and how they treat each other and the space.
Step 2: I will do one of three things after this:
- I will collect ideas and do a photo shoot with everyday objects, like boxes, telephones or tea cups and I ask what life is about.
- I select and create work from everyday documentation.
- I ask people to record their life with disposable cameras. Why not a cellphone, because of control, you can’t delete an image once it has been taken. Less control and more actual life from a raw un-edited perspective.
Step 3: This is still a change for me. I do a concept development by choosing the best line technique and colour to communicate a reflection of the everyday life. Comic and illustration techniques help guide this part of my process. Graphic novels have a great way of over emphasizing the ordinary to push the story towards an emotion. The everyday moments also give a reader an opportunity to relate.
Step 4: I work in combination with control and accident, whether it is ink, coffee or wine. Most of my works are created from a balance between the mediums, nature and control. It’s like jumping off a cliff with the hope that I land safely. I don’t allow myself to have full control over my work, because realizing something that is out of your control can be more pleasing than what you could create with full control (happy accidents). In this way I believe my art reflects life, a good balance between what you have control over and what you don’t.
Much of your work is concerned with the everyday moments of life. How do you transform these familiar snapshots into a more complex narrative?
Through carefully considered use of line and colour. I turn to fine art drawing, graphic novels, comics and illustration techniques as a start and reference. The act of drawing, and the flexibility it provides supports what I am trying to communicate. With a visual interest in and inspiration from illustrations and comic book art, I have seen how simple lines can depict complex ideas and emotions with great impact. Drawn lines are interesting communication tools. I don’t think I will ever stop investigating this medium or its narrative potential. My work specifically explores interpersonal and emotional relationships through different drawing mediums and techniques. In this way, the artworks subvert the narratives and over emphasise the banality of day-to-day life.
What are some of the other things that influence and inspire you?
A day out in the world investigating new places. It can be a visit to a museum, market, street or a friend’s place of work. The best part about being an artist is that you must explore, see life and what it presents to you. Listening to people can also be quite inspiring, just going to a conference or just chatting to someone. Seeing life through someone else’s eyes, new perspective, new ideas and creative solutions to what I see. Concepts about life become interesting when the perspective is different and my mind wanders through a process of imagination.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned throughout your career so far?
Know that you don’t know. Keep learning and challenging yourself, this gives my art life.
How has your work developed since you first started out?
I was naive about what made a good work. If you have a formula, your work is dead already. I used to strive for photographic like excellence in painting. I am glad I realised that there is so much more to art than a cage of realism.
One thing you can’t go a day without?
And lastly, where to from here?
Keep the challenge going. Next year I am a full time artist and I have a public studio now at a collective. I am going to give myself a chance to see where my art career will take me. I have been working hard this year on many projects and I am waiting to see the outcomes thereof. What happens from these outcomes will help me figure out my next projects. And I am now working on my “Joburg Atlantis” project that will show next year, not sure where yet…