Featured Artist: Andy Curlowe
When most people think of a thriving artistic capital, Cleveland, Ohio, does not come to mind. But Andy Curlowe, 27, proudly calls the Midwestern city home. After he was raised by a “wildly independent and creative mother” in Schenectady, New York, Curlowe studied painting and drawing at Montserrat College of Art. It was after graduation that Andy found himself looking for an affordable studio space with his partner, Laura, in Cleveland — here, they found “a dynamic and approachable art scene.”
When BANGSTYLE came across Curlowe’s art, we were amazed by its beauty and complexity. Curlowe’s work reflects the relationship between “the natural world and the world of human influence.” There is an uncanny tension in his work that is created by these opposing forces. We spoke with Curlowe to find out more about the artist behind these incredible paintings. Read the full interview below.
BANGSTYLE: Your art really struck me because of the colors and layered images. What is the process behind these complex paintings?
Andy Curlowe: My process is one of applying, meditating, and revisiting. I begin with a basic idea: a place, person, or myth that has intrigued me. I jump in without aesthetic planning or foresight, without a sketch, design, or expectation. I work through my idea in the foundation layer. Formally and structurally, these initial paintings are usually failures and are set aside. I meditate on these “failures” as I work on another canvas in my studio, which is full of work in various stages of engagement. As I revisit each work with fresh eyes, I freely take out entire sections, painting over, collaging over, and adding new renderings. Nothing can be precious.
The end of the process brings finalized details, taped off lines, delicate linear pencil work; raw canvas is exposed between multi-dimensional layers. Unveiled within each finished work, a history.
BANGSTYLE: How does living in Cleveland influence and inspire your work?
AC: Cleveland is the heart of the rust belt, once thriving and now recovering from a mass pull -out of industry and manufacturing. These factors have dramatically impacted the psyche as well as the landscape of the city. As a child in upstate New York, my surroundings offered the physical tension created by the elevation of man-made buildings echoed by the natural rhythm of the Adirondack Mountains. Cleveland’s skyline lacks this dichotomy; the landscape has been shaped entirety by human influence. Within these confines, nature will always infiltrate and in response the human hand will strive to command it. My work seeks to represent this inevitable struggle. Both ends of this process, of building and tearing down, of growth and decomposition, contain beauty.
BANGSTYLE: That natural world clearly has a strong influence on your art. What is your favorite season? How does it influence your work?
AC: I don’t have a favorite season. Living in the North East, the seasons are in a continual state of ebb and flow, slowly altering the landscape I live in. As city-dwellers, we are constantly seeking to control our environment for our own convenience. Snow is a time -consuming inconvenience to circumnavigate. Rain forces us to bring our work inside. The summer heat is sweltering. The natural world, in contrasts, requires these shifts …. The nutrients, recumbent refuge, relief.
A significant influence of my work has been the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, a man-made structure impervious to the elements. Within this enormous, geometric greenhouse a wilderness has been harnessed. Seen daily from my office window, I am reminded of the tension between the untamed and a glass ceiling. Nature and the artificial, working hand in hand in defiance of the seasons.
BANGSTYLE: You say your art is a “reflection of the ever-changing relationship between the natural world and the world of human influence.” Can you explain how these two opposing forces interact within your art?
AC: Mountains counter as solid forms, pictorial and inviting, hovering at times within the flattened atmosphere of my paintings. These stoic ranges are interrupted by the onslaught of vibrant, geometric forms encroaching on their domain. Invading the space of this natural plain and adding another omnipresent reality to the environment, intense opacities conflict with the muted hues that ground my work.
Implied architectural elements mimic mountains and ravines. Pencil lines appear, almost transparent, over fields of green and the fluorescent solids. Layer upon layer of build-up creates the dimensional structures which sew the worlds of thought together.
BANGSTYLE: What is one philosophy that you live by?
AC: I believe that people are capable of incredible things. I strive to be cognizant of my own impact on my surroundings. My artwork reflects on the shifting state of my environment. The world is cyclical; full of loss, creation, and reinvention. I try to appreciate what has been provided or left behind and to reinvent and reincorporate the abandoned.
BANGSTYLE: Do you have any exhibitions coming up that you’d like readers to know about?
AC: The next show I’m taking part in will be at Circuit12 Contemporary in Dallas, TX, late March 2012. I’m also currently working on a permanent public art instillation, EMERGANCE, in conjunction with artist Jessica Langley for Cleveland’s RTA.
For more information about Andy Curlowe, visit his website.