As a young man in 1970 Barry Andrews was offered a place at St. Martin’s School of Art, but personal circumstances, the necessity to work and married life took over and he was unable to accept the offer. However, as his life progressed, Andrews felt an increasing void, a creative absence in his world, an increasing awareness that art was his true calling in life and that being an artist was something which he should have pursued.
Eventually, in 2007 and with the support of his second wife and encouraging advice from the artist Nick Botting, Andrews finally fulfilled his lifelong ambition and took an art foundation course before enrolling on a Fine Art course at the University of East London. He has been painting ever since.
Andrews is a prolific artist, whose vibrant, textural, large-scale paintings are highly popular for their playful, bold and unusual use of colour and their satisfying compositions. Although at first glance the paintings appear to be abstracts, Andrews describes them as representational: “I think most painting is a form of abstraction but I would consider my work to be representational. On occasion I move towards abstraction as an indulgence but am rarely satisfied with the results. To be identified as one or the other does not trouble me as I feel it is for others to categorise my work if they feel it necessary, often people like to categorise things or people to make themselves comfortable in connecting with an identity.”
Willem De Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler and even J.M.W. Turner have all been influences on his paintings and Andrews has developed a distinctive style which is consistent in his body of works: “as I progress through my career I have tried to find my own identity, and as I apply this to a canvas it allows me to concentrate on the subject and composition knowing the style is already set in terms of mark making and palette.”
A recurring motif in his work is the theme of the industrial River Thames, with its historical references, tradition and consistency. To Andrews, its image is the “antithesis of the romantic landscape.”
One of the most beautiful features of Andrews' artwork is his meticulous attention to the quality of the final product. He stretches all of his canvases by hand, applying two coats of rabbit skin glue and six coats of Lascaux primer to prevent the canvas surface from cracking. He then wets and dries the final coat to give a leather-like finish where the tooth is lost and the paint is able to flow more freely. The result of this laborious process is evident in the high-quality finish of his paintings, which is better reflected when viewed in the flesh. All his paintings are painted in oil, which he applies with brush, palette knife, rag and other improvised tools that give his signature markings on the works.
Andrews has had great success at recent London exhibitions such as The Paul McPherson Gallery, The John Russell and an exhibition at The Hellenic Centre in Paddington.