I love meeting inspiring humans who love what they do. They talk about it with so much passion and eloquence. I instantly know when that happens. I can see the sparkle in their eyes. And I smile without realising.
What is even rarer is to meet well-rounded people who can talk not only about what they love, but everything and anything else. And Andy is one of them.
A couple of months I received a message on Twitter. Andy, a final year Fine Art Student at Solent came across my blog and wanted to meet and have a chat. He offered to show me around the Fine Art studios and his third year project he was working on.
I love meeting new people-oh if I could do that for a living- and any excuse to visit the beautiful, colourful, creative Below Bar Studios again, I didn’t have to think twice.
We met on a grey Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. And I enjoyed every minute. Andy is honest and open about his life. I miss it, I often find that people here are too polite and don’t say what they think, afraid they may reveal too much. But not Andy.
We sit opposite his impressive piece of work.
We talked about his life, what a life he had. He left Liverpool when he was 17 to get away from family troubles and had to work since. He became a chef, at some point working at the Marco Pierre White restaurant in London, living THE life.
We inevitably end up talking about food, Mediterranean cuisine, he lived in Spain for a while so he really knows the essence of delicious food.
He somehow lost everything later on, and some years and six children later, one day his wife said to him ‘I’ll go back to work, and it’s time for you to chase your dream’.
That’s when he applied to study Fine Art at Solent. He wanted to become an artist since he was a child, but as you’d imagine, there wasn’t much support for a young Liverpudlian lad in the ’80s to become an artist, you ‘can’t make a living out of it’.
We talk about the course. He loves it. He absolutely loves it but he feels there is not much support, recognition or promotion from the University. As a mature student, commuting for hours most days, he expected more for himself and his classmates.
We go through his work and his current project. Imposing, sad but incredibly powerful.
The big hammer, the ‘corporate’, the ‘big powers’ ruining our planet, ruining humanity. All of that painted on plastic canvases. The contrast, the intentional irony.
On one of his paintings, he added a crown on his hammer hitting the Grenfell tower, on which he added a little head. A prime, tragic example of how greediness has destroyed the lives of innocent, every day people. I can see it so very clearly (image below it’s not the one I’ve seen, but it depicts the same scene).
On the top right, I catch a familiar image with the corner of my eye. The traditional blue and white houses you often see on Greek Islands. I smile. It reminds me of the cute little holiday apartment I stayed with my sisters in Protaras, two years ago, the best summer I had in a long time.
He shows me around the studio, it somehow seems bigger than the last time I was there. He talks me through the rest of the students work, some finished, some still in progress. That’s why I love art. I love the creativity, the beauty of the surrealism mixed with cruel reality in more than one occasions and the subjectivity. You may not see what I see, and I may not see what you see. That’s the beauty of it.
I leave the Studio grateful I met Andy and I spent my lunchtime at a gorgeous, creative space, escaping reality even for a little bit.
I can’t wait for their degree show, 26° Below Bar, opening night on the 8th of June. Everyone is welcome. If you want to see Andy’s and the rest of our amazing Fine Art students’ work, come along. I’ll be there.