Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Michael Andrews, painter

A common name, like mine, so he did not stand out among those of his peers at the Getty in its final day of London Calling, an exhibit of modern English painters. R.B. Kitaj's maladjusted collages, Lucien Freud's lumbering nudes, Francis Bacon's melting portraits, Frank Auerbach's layered coatings and Leon Kossoff's similarly sinuous patterns comprised a less realistic, more disturbed sense. I wondered, as four of the six were of Jewish descent, how that colored their reactions to life. Surely monographs have been written on this.

Michael Andrews took a softer, less angular or fractured view. I like the figurative attempts more. Like my favorite artists the previous generation from that post-WWII time and place, Stanley Spencer and Eric Gill, Andrews captured a rounded, if distorted gracefully or surprisingly, attitude in his figures. One falls, and laughs.

This link shows most of the works on loan to the Getty from the Tate, although not the one I liked best. That one incorporated sand and ash. Painted near the artist's death, it integrated the earth and the elements, a stoic evocation of men. The Estuary, Mouth of the Thames at Essex's Canvey Island (1994-5) testifies to the dissolving of us all back into the primordial, after our brave, lonely shore stand. Like the figures here, we face the gap we came from, upright and gill-less, yet remembering the call of the ocean: air that invigorates, the tides that pound, the worms wriggling, the gulls aloft. That amniotic fluid, that salt smell, that ionic pulse we answer.

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