Updated: Apr 6
This week we will be talking to artist and painter Andrea Grottick, exploring a new series of paintings she has created in response to the recent Lockdown.
Image description: a landscape painting depicting a brown fence on top of which sit young people wearing masks sitting inside shimmering bubbles. The background is a deep green with decorative leaf patterns at the top of the canvas. The centre reads Andrea Grottick, below reads @andreagrottickart.
Who are you and what do you make?
Hello, my name is Andrea, I am an artist living in Cardiff, although I’m originally from Essex. I mostly paint in oils on canvas. My work encourages people to think about current affairs, human interactions and how easy it is to misjudge people and situations.
Can you tell us about your recent paintings that explore lockdown and isolation?
This particular collection started last year, at the beginning of the first lockdown. I had already spent a very long time unable to leave my home, due to the sudden onset of an autoimmune disease (Ulcerative Colitis), so I was advised to ‘shield’ during lockdown. I created ‘Locked Down’ in response to this. This painting is very specific to my illness – hence the colon references – but was well received by others who could relate the feelings of restriction and wanting to escape that it illustrates. I then decided to keep on painting themes about the lockdown that everyone could relate to. Over time, as ‘conspiracy theories’ emerged, I also included these in some of my paintings, with subtle references to both sides of the stories in the media. I give each painting a title that reflects my overall thoughts about the topic, but also hint at other stories and interpretations.
Andrea Grottick, The Final Solution, oil paint on canvas, 2020
Image description: a landscape painting depicting a crowd of young children wearing hats and backpacks all queuing and walking out in to the distance. The background is covered in vibrant red with yellow stencils of syringes. A floating coronavirus follows the queue, with dandelion seeds floating off from it.
I use a mixture of bright and neutral tones to highlight certain areas of the painting and often isolate areas from the rest of the painting – to mirror our current situation.
In this collection I have covered topics such as: mask wearing, social bubbles, herd immunity, shielding, protecting the NHS, the influence of mass media, statistics and graphs and common law. I am currently working on a piece about travel restrictions.
Andrea Grottick, Off the Grid, oil paint on canvas, 2020
Image description: a portrait painting covered with vibrant green, blue and yellow hues in swirling textural patterns. 6 sheep stare out of the centre of the canvas.
Is there a piece of art that you are most proud of creating? Why?
Haha, every time I finish a new painting I think ‘this is the one that I like the most…this is really saying something’. I particularly like looking at ‘In This Together’, as it is colourful and sweet, with the cats; however, I am proud of creating ‘MSM: Mainstream Media’, as it does what I’d intended. I gathered some feedback from other artists in a hub group that I’m a member of (United Art Space – an organisation supporting the arts and providing learning resources that help artists develop their professional art practice) and the overall consensus was that it was disturbing, thought provoking and that the central figure of the female was mesmerising – exactly what I’d intended to get people talking about the issues portrayed.
Andrea Grottick, MSM: Mainstream Media, oil paint on canvas, 2020
Image description: a landscape painting depicting a dark room. 4 small children stare up at a TV screen depicting an idealised woman's face, The background is covered with web-like textured patterns.
What is your process for creating your paintings?
I start by covering the canvas with paint, then ‘play’. I use household objects to make imprints, strip away sections of colour with rags and drip thinners to create streaks. I use my fingers to leave behind fingerprints and, on occasion, have even used hand sanitiser to blend the paint. Sometimes I block off areas with masking tape and draw motifs in masking fluid. I add layers and then hide or reveal parts later in the process. Whilst doing this, I think about the subject matter and the best way to portray this figuratively; to be suggestive of multiple viewpoints. So, the central image of people, animals, etc, isn’t added until the final stages. The only exception to this was ‘Who’s in Your Bubble?’ as I knew immediately that I wanted people separated from each other, so I masked them off and worked around them. I also wanted the figures to look unfinished and ‘sketched’, as though it was a quick snapshot into their lives – like a fleeting glance. Usually, I use more definition of the figures than the background.
Andrea Grottick, Just Breathe, oil paint on canvas, 2020
Image description: a landscape painting depicting a crying female face. Broken masks float around her. Blue paint covers the figures mouth while the ground is covered in a vibrant red ground.
You have stated that you have an interest in human relations and how people interact. Why is this important to you?
Several reasons, which can be traced back to childhood and various jobs I’ve had in Mental Health. As a child growing up in a big family (2 brothers, 4 sisters…and countless friends in and out of the house) I was very shy and prone to social anxiety. I hid this well by immersing myself in solitary activities, such as art making and reading. By the time I got to secondary school, I was very socially awkward and looked to other people to learn from them, at first. This developed into ‘people watching’ and then a fascination with psychology, personalities and personality disorders. I overcame my shyness and have helped others with their own anxiety and mental health issues, but remain interested in what makes people tick, what their motivations and struggles are and also how groups of people either conform or rebel against certain situations and can often misjudge or exaggerate what they are experiencing. I previously did a collection of work, called ‘State of Mind’, which addressed these issues and was exhibited at Oxford House Gallery, London. You can see these on my website.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
I would like to make art more accessible for everyone equally. Currently, there are very few art opportunities outside of the big cities. Even in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, there are very few venues to exhibit non-commercial work and the venues we do have are not easily accessible or inclusive to all members of the community. I would like to see more outreach work done to bring art out into the community so that people, all people in our diverse society, can interact with it and appreciate it.
With the sudden impact of COVID-19 has your practice had to adapt or change to the new circumstances?
Yes. In the past, before embarking on a project or collection, I would get out into the community and talk to a variety of people about their thoughts, concerns and hopes regarding the chosen topic. Sometimes I would record these conversations and make sound installations highlighting key words and ideas. With this collection – although it wasn’t pre-planned and just developed naturally into a collection – I wasn’t able to initiate this level of community involvement. Instead, I created a Facebook page and shared news articles, memes and video links about alternative viewpoints on the lockdown subjects for each painting and encouraged debate on my page. I used the comments my friends, family and other artists left to guide my artmaking and ensure that all voices were heard.
Andrea Grottick, In This Together, oil paint on canvas, 2020
Image description: a portrait painting displaying 3 black and white cats sitting on a window sill looking outside. Instead of a normal landscape the view is filled with multicoloured globular shapes with spikes, appearing like abstract expressions of the COVID virus.
I’ve also had to adapt to the galleries being closed by getting my work seen on various online platforms, such as your blog (with thanks).
What projects have you recently completed?
I am part of The Golden Thread Sketchbook. This was a project created by the artist, Deb Jones, and has since grown into a collective of artists all over the world. We each created a sketchbook page, which will be bound as a book and auctioned for charity. The theme for the sketchbook was ‘Journey Through Lockdown’, so it coincides with my own collection. We also have a website and are now on the second chapter of the sketchbook, Identity, and growing traction on social media.
Andrea Grottick, Manipulation, oil paint on canvas, 2020
Image description: a portrait painting displaying a female figure wearing a mask, in one hand she holds an phone while in the other she holds a set of scales. Geometric blue lines and patterns cover the background.
I also have a postcard entry currently exhibiting in the ‘Life in Lockdown’ exhibition at the Showcase Gallery, Southampton.
Why do you make this type of art?
I think this also goes back to being an introvert and not being able to express myself very well verbally. I speak through my art. I love the playful expression of emotion through painting abstract backgrounds, then enjoy the challenge of putting my own thoughts and the views of others into images. I also love to read, so relish the opportunity to research and scrutinise each topic. I wonder sometimes if I’m simply illustrating the news, but hope that I’m opening up otherwise controversial avenues for discussion in a safe, non-judgemental way.
Are there specific artists or themes that influence your practice
When I was younger, I was heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and was chided for this when I did my degree, as they were ridiculed as being ‘twee’ and ‘chocolate box’; however, I admire their technical skill and their rebellion against the mainstream ideals of art for their time, and their use of vibrant colour, luminosity and symbolism.
I am also influenced and admire the work of Bill Viola. He almost paints a picture with his video art, as he weaves through various aspects of the human condition and expertly draws you into conversation about the scenes he is depicting.
A final message from the artist.
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