Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Surreal Deal - Andrew Baines

New works by Andrew Baines are now on exhibition at Artery Gallery in St Andrews.

Andrew has exhibited extensively in Switzerland, the US and Canada as well as around Australia and has proved equally collectable in Scotland, since being introduced by Artery Gallery three years ago

One time illustrator and sign-writer, Andrew Baines has risen in recent years to become one of Australia’s top contemporary artists. In the last four years alone, he has been a finalist in no less than twelve competitions, two of which have been for the Australian National Portrait award.

It has been as a figurative painter that his reputation has been established. With a strong resemblance to the work of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, the majority of Andrew’s work depict suited businessmen, not necessarily floating in the sky, but lined up along the shallows of a golden beach, reminiscent of the beaches near to his hometown of Grange, South Australia.

With other huge influences being Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Prohart, the inspiration behind Andrew’s paintings are more direct and pivotal to his own experiences and personal decision to become a painter.

"When I was 14, my parents took me back to England to visit the relatives," says Baines, who had emigrated from Colchester when he was just one year old. "One morning we caught the Underground. I went down onto the platform and I was greeted by a sea of formally dressed, bowler-hatted men, holding their umbrellas and briefcases. It just looked so incredible, because they were all clones and they all looked lifeless ... waiting for their train to come in. That stayed in my subconscious for years and years."

When Baines got his first job at 17 at a department store, these images resurfaced. He adds, "I'd be on the bus with all these commuters and think to myself that this is exactly the same as the bowler-hat men – but much more Australian, more casual. I used to think their lives were already spelled out for them. I thought to myself, 'I don't want to be like this'."

His early surrealism was largely ignored. Since he lived by the beach and had always done so, it was suggested to him that he began interpreting the environment closest to him.

He says he had avoided painting the beach because he wanted to be different. The beach was too obvious. But the beach was a hit with the art market and Baines' exhibitions were sell-outs.

With his paintings taking of commercially, Andrew mixed this style with his original vision. Now his beach shallows and rolling hills are populated by circus performers, herds of cows and wooden chairs! "They've still got that nice aesthetic mood but then you've got my underlying, self-conscious feelings on life coming through," he says. A post-modern landscape.

Surrealism has dwelt in his mind's eye throughout his painting years and it is a genre to which he returns, rather than begins. With this amount of success as an artist, Andrew Baines has become the real deal.



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