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Andrew Crane

February 15, 2012

Veil – cement, polythene, house paint, acrylic and graphite on paper, 11 x 12 inches (28 x 30 cm)

Painting is a meditative practice for Andrew Crane. He is fascinated by the space in between things:  the pause between words; the gap between numbers; the split second that is the present rather than the past or the future. He is intrigued by number, “both its mystery and completeness”, but there are inherent contradictions between his obsession for the tidiness of mathematics and the randomness of his working method.  The surfaces of his canvases are littered with letters, numbers and scribbled bits of handwriting. He uses them like notation, borrowing their respective languages and appropriating them into his own visual language so that they come to mean something different.  However all of these things “are incidental to my search for a certain energetic truth in my paintings”.

Basta  – cement, varnish and acrylic on canvas – 30 x 30 inches (76 x 76 cm)

At first glance much of his work appears monochrome but subtle modulations of tone are enlivened by understated pale ochres and colour greys.  He believes strongly in the energy of marks and their potential to draw a response from the viewer.  Crosses double as multiplication or plus signs and arrows direct the eye across the composition.  His surfaces with their scrubbed out areas and obliterated fragments of text are like the complex workings of a mathematician solving an equation.

Beach scene – cement, varnish and acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 inches (76 x 76 cm)

He arrived at his present way of working by chance.  Struggling with an unresolved painting he took tile cement and trowelled it over the canvas.  He discovered that he “loved the surface” because it “had a bite to it and it took the paint really well”.  He “likes working outside with the canvas flat” and the “imperfections and scars” left by the trowel become part of the composition. He is an instinctive artist rarely planning in advance, often being led by the process.  Unsurprisingly he is strongly influenced by Antoni Tapies who worked with similar materials.

Outcrop   – cement, polythene, house paint, acrylic and graphite on paper, 11 x 12 inches (28 x 30 cm)

Most recently, again by chance, a piece of discarded black bin bag has entered centre stage in his latest series of paintings. There are seven in all. It is still all about process and materials and the numbers are ever present, like characters in a play, part of a darkly present chorus, sounding only when necessary but always to great effect.  Crane works fast. He has to since the cement starts to go off very quickly once he has trowelled it onto the support, accident is an important element.  The combination of speed and chance, “forces me into the moment, I am not thinking about anything else, it really focuses the attention”.  Andrew Crane moved from the soft South to the ruggedness of Northumberland three years ago and he has become increasingly influenced by the wild and beautiful landscape on his doorstep. He wakes everyday to spectacular views across the fields; he can just see the top of Hadrian’s Wall from his window.  The weather is stark and windy and he is often to be found up on the leaky roof of the shed, which serves as a studio, making repairs.

Ocean Perk – oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches (92 x 122 cm)

There is a spiritual element to Crane’s work.  His interests in dowsing, meditation and mathematics filter into his work.  He reads widely across philosophy and religion picking ideas from sources as diverse as the Gospel of Thomas, the lyrics of Bob Dylan and Zen Buddhism.  The bust of a Buddha accompanied by colour strips inspired by a Tibetan thangka which hangs on his studio wall has appeared in some paintings.  In others, ‘Happy in my madness’ he plays with the meanings of numbers and words like four and fou, and juxtaposes scribbled charcoal marks with carefully hand-painted type traced from computer printouts.  In ‘Phi (Approx)’ the proportions of the golden mean, seen in plants like passionflowers, become a structure for its numerical equivalent. Crane’s philosophical approach allows him to detach himself from the process and observe. “When the mind is still, without past or future, this is the place of true creativity”.

89-8 – oil and water-based paint on canvas, 40 x 50 inches (102 x 157 cm)

©Fiona Robinson 2005-2012

Andrew Crane’s next exhibition, ‘Two and a half dimensions’, will be at the Kihle Gallery, Horten, Norway – March 2nd to 25th, 2012

This Text is an updated version of an essay published in Fifty Wessex Artists by Fiona Robinson, published by Evolver Books, 2006.

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