On painting

Posted by Andy Wicks on 14th June 2011

My paintings are worked on in groups, each one is made up of two distinct layers. Both layers are painted with oil paint, but both do different things. I like systems and order, and creating defined rules to work by. I explore the city with a camera, then reference it on the canvas.

My influences

Im a fan of German abstraction, as seen in artists such as Albert Oehlen whose use of chaos could end up looking as a dark oily mess, but he somehow always makes it work. I think I respond to elements of visual discord which simultaneously please and repel the viewer. I've also been looking at Gert & Uwe Tobias' woodcuts recently, which sit between dark fairytale narratives and graphic geometry. The woodcuts are used to produce one-off pieces and, as such, have a painterly feel, with the imperfections and glitches from the process unashamedly on display.

'Gezeichnete Hunde' by Albert Oehlen (2005), oil on canvas

The research

I explore the city with my camera to find oddities and intrigue. I find myself drawn to the materiality of objects especially industrial sites and those where function outweighs design. I particularly look for sights where weather and pollution have worn surfaces down letting mold or rust set in. My current series has taken me to the River Thames where I have been studying 'dolphins', or mooring constructions. Objects which have mostly long lost their purpose now sit slowly being worn by the tide eventually to be reclaimed by the riverbed. So far I've covered about 50 miles from Kew in the west to Thamesmead out east. While the motivation for doing this was originally to get photographs to feed my paintings, I've actually really enjoyed learning about London through the riverside architecture. It's fascinating to see how people live and the varied levels of wealth, with much of the social housing now turned into expensive modern flats the riverfront is starting to lose its individual character.

Image by the River Thames, Woolwich Arsenal

The process

I make my paintings in a two-stage process which when viewed separately, could be identified as works by two different artists. At the start of a piece I'll be moving round the canvas laid flat on the studio floor, smudging resin into the weave of the canvas with gloves so it pools over the surface. Then pouring thinned oil from jars, tilting and adjusting the position of the canvas to create the background.

Painting ground, resin & thinned oil paint

Once dry I paint the foreground structure that sits on the resin ground. The foreground is painted with the canvas flat on a table and in contrast to the background is painted carefully with fine brushes to create the straight architectural lines. Its the layering of messy action painting technique and controlled graphical detail which interests me and perhaps gives me renewed energy having time working in both head spaces. While the resin backgrounds reference process painting and a wealth of abstract art history, they can also draw comparisons to rapid flowing water or weather systems.

Andy's studio

The titles

The names of my paintings come from the Atlantic list of Hurricane names where each storm has its name taken from a list of alternating male and female names. The naming of each painting imbues the structure a gender and reinforces the personification suggested by the portrait orientation canvas and composition. While also referencing the weathering of the dolphins and the eddies that appear in the painted grounds.

'Lisa', one of the limited edition prints that Andy Wicks has produced in collaboration with Rise Art.