From a hardworking teenager to a chef to an artist- The story of Andy Jones, a Solent Fine Art Student

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.

IMG_5678 1

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.

Andy Jones

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).

Grenfell tower

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.

Eleni

 

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Bordeaux day 3- museums, bookstores and more rain

I opened my eyes… I could hear the rain, it must have rained all night and all of a sudden pain, the moment my senses woke up. I forgot about the pain.

Why? It’s not time yet, it’s not until next week… But it seems that the walking and the excitement of it all had an effect on my body.

It rained, I was in pain and feeling rough, I may be also getting a cold…I was tempted to pop out just to grab some food and then stay in bed for the rest of the day. But I wouldn’t do that. Not on my last full day in Bordeaux.

I popped downstairs for breakfast.  Malvina got me a pastel de nata, a Portuguese sweet tart and goat’s milk yogurt, in addition to fresh bread and her delicious organic spreads.

I love chatting with her. Today we talked about life, how she decided to never get married, living alone but with an amazing support network of friends and family, her career as a city planner, working for the government, it reminded me of Parks and Rec, oh I miss it… What a wonderful life she had, full of adventures and now, lucky enough to retire early she spends her time doing whatever she likes. She gave me advice, she made me laugh and made me feel awesome (she thought I was younger than my age but she still thought I was young and I should follow my dreams and not compromise, thanks Malvina!).

After about two hours getting ready, everything still hurting, I was out and about. I had a vague plan for today.

First on the list: A  unique, quirky bookstore I discovered online, Machine a Lire. It was more impressive to see up close. And it was so quiet, very appropriate for such an imposing setting.

Machine a Lire

Next, another bookstore, this one of historic importance, Librairie Mollat, located where political philosopher Montesquieu last lived. It was huge! On my way there a group of school children following their teacher, like ducklings follow their mum, were on their way to the bookstore too, stopping every now and then for the teacher to show them another landmark. I remember when our teachers took us on day trips when we were 6-7 years old. Everything seemed so big, everything impressed us.

Librairie Mollat

After a wander in the enormous bookshop, it was time to visit Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, the Museum of Fine Arts. I didn’t know what to expect, but in the end it definitely worth more than the five euros entry.

It was split into two buildings, the classic art in one side and modern art on the other (with an impressive palace in the middle).

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux

It’s impossible to list all the artwork that impressed me but the ones that I still remember:

David holding Goliath’s head (Aubin Vouet)

David tenant la tete de Goliath, Aubin Vouet

God Hermes, devastated  for Sappho’s, the Greek poet, death (Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse)

La mort de Sapho

The Window a La Goulette (Tunisia) (by Albert Marquet), so simple but striking.

La Fenetre a la Goulette

The Souliot women (Narcisse Diaz de  La Pena) who heroically decided to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Turks back in 1803, and they did so by singing and dancing, the Zalongo dance, I guess not many would know the story behind it, unless you were born and raised in Greece or Cyprus).

Les Femmes Souliotes

And finally an original Picasso, Olga Reading

Olga reading, Picasso

After a short break for late lunch at the first cafe I bumped into (not the best food I had but it was OK)

Baked Camembert

and a moment to admire the cathedral

St Andre Cathedral

my final stop was Musée d’Aquitaine, a museum on the history of Bordeaux and Aquitaine. It spanned over thousands of years of history, from the palaeolithic age, the first paintings on the wall, the Roman era to modern history. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Bordeaux!

 

And that was the last place to visit in Bordeaux. I made my way home to pack and prepare for my flight tomorrow.

I can’t believe I haven’t travelled on my own before. I loved everything about it. The freedom, the liberation, wandering around, getting lost in streets I’ve never walked down before, ending up in the most random places, discovering new things.

I wish everyone could experience travelling on their own at least once. It’s such a unique, meaningful, emotional, amazing experience, it’s hard to understand until you do it yourself.

I’d definitely do it again, although it’s great to share these moments with loved ones. Here’s to more adventures, small or big, solo or with friends and family, that’s what’s life it’s all about.

Namaste

Eleni

A wonderful afternoon at Below Bar Studios

Yesterday I had one of the most interesting, fun afternoons in a long long time.

My lovely Louise took me down to Below Bar, the home of our School of Art and Design Studios to meet two of the course leaders who set up amazing work and social spaces for their students.

I absolutely loved it. A day later and I’m still buzzing.

It’s a whole different world down there and God I wished I was part of it.

First stop: The BA (Hons) Fine Art Studios. The lovely, sweet course leader Atsuhide gave as a little tour. Bright, big, colourful, vibrant rooms, the sun shining through the large windows, students working on their art, unique, beautiful artwork displayed everywhere, I was speechless and that says a lot!

Next stop the BA (Hons) Graphic Design base room. A social and work space for students. I didn’t know where to look first. What a truly beautiful, creative room. Great big tables decorated with students’ artwork, impressive constructions, table-tennis and Foosball tables, luxurious leather sofas and cosy, little hubs surrounded by wood frames made by the hands of one of the most interesting people I met in a long time, the course leader and Head of Subject Nick Long.

 

Nick is not only an incredibly talented and intelligent man who could even spell my name first time we ever met, I was seriously impressed, but he is the best story teller I met in real life and you know me, I love a good story.

We soon went off topic, always a sign of a good conversation, and ended up chatting about many different things including the old Southampton Arts School, which was next to the beach (yes, Southampton used to have a beach) back in 1850s and it looked like a scene from Pride And Prejudice, an impressive, imposing building surrounded by pine and cypress trees. Spa rooms were situated on the ground floor and the Arts School was on the first floor with his own private entrance. It was unfortunately knocked down in 1950s. Nick has done his research and got hold of photos and drawings he scrolled through whilst telling us all about it.

It instantly sparked my imagination and I was transferred to the 1850s, picturing people relaxing at the spa rooms whilst upstairs art students handcrafted surreal sculptures and colourful paintings.

I could listen to Nick talk all day. His voice, his accent, his lively, enthusiastic, natural story-telling, narrating style are truly captivating.

During our conversation I got the chance to meet Chris Bigg, another amazingly talented and sweet man who until I came home and googled him, I didn’t realise he has worked for some of the most famous record labels and artists as a graphic designer.

I don’t get starstruck and being famous doesn’t mean anything to me. But talent and creativity together with honesty, kindness and wicked sense of humour instantly makes me fall in love with humans on a spiritual level. It reminds me that there are some amazing people out there and I really needed that reminder lately.

Thank you Lou for an amazing afternoon. I fell in love with the place and the people.

I can’t wait to visit again. Today I feel truly blessed.

Namaste

Eleni