His work is a fusion of evolving technology, elements of nature and his mystical experiences.
In an audio interview with Fractal Enlightenment, Andrew talks about his journey as an artist, his chosen medium – electro-mineralism – his liking for ancient cultural deities, and much more.
When was the moment you wanted to become a visionary artist?
I started drawing when I was pretty young and its stuck with me since then; it was a natural way to interact with the world around me. Its like putting together a series of different experiences and it was something I just fell in love with.
So I did it pretty compulsively, I was raised on a farm so I had a lot of isolation and time to my self.
You describe yourself as an ‘electro-mineralist’ – what does this mean?
Throughout art history, different artists are conventionally defined by the mediums that they use, like oil painters, pastel artists, etc., but in history most of the mediums available to artists have been mostly from elements coming from the vegetable kingdom, whether its papyrus or canvas, grinding up different pigments from earth or plants.
Digital art is not really descriptive of the medium that it really is. I am not painting with digits necessarily.
The tools that we use are an extension of the human consciousness and humans are really good at manipulating the environment around them, so when I look at what is it that I use to create, the main force behind it is electricity – all the digital work is electrical in nature and the technology largely comprises minerals like magnesium and silicon, quartz crystals, copper, iron. The combination of minerals and electricity together is what makes this amazing possibilities.
Is that the medium you choose from the start and you gradually made the switch to technology?
While growing up I started like how kids start with crayons, finger paints. I evolved to color pencils and markers. There were lot of different phases – I had a big marker phase, I had a strong color pencil phase, I got into water colors for a while. I kind of take different mediums and get obsessed with them. I also got into acrylic paints and then in the 90s I started working with oil painting and also had a lot of charcoal.
I went through an academic training in drawing and painting. In 1995-96, computers became more easily available and I went to school to learn computer animation and I started experimenting with photoshop. Even though they are not anything close to where they are now, just the feeling that there was so much possibility and a look over the past 100 years, not a lot has changed with innovation – oil paints or brushes, animal hair – and I could see how fast technology was evolving. I decided to focus my attention on trying to master these new tools that were available.
I read about you making ‘one self-portrait every day for 1000 days between May 2002 and February 2005’, what was your inspiration behind this?
There were lot of different reasons why I started – I think one was after graduating from a art school in US, which was quite expensive, and I had a lot of debt that I needed to get rid of, so I chose to work in the video game and the film industry for a while. During that time I went through what people refer to as the dark night of the soul in my 20s. On a personal level I felt that as an artist we all have to make these compromises, sometimes commodifying our creativity and putting a price tag on that.
I wanted to prove to myself that as an artist I still could make time to make art just for the sake of art without trying to sell it or market it or brand it or make anything out of it. Essentially, it was more on idealistic, romantic level, trying to prove that I still had a soul somewhere in there. I made time everyday to put everything else aside and focus on trying to capture what was in front of me.
What started for me as an exercise, became an obsession and as time went on I could see the progression of all the portraits – like a visual diary of my life. When I looked at all at once, 100 at a time or 300 at a time, I saw these patterns emerge.
I could actually look back at the dates and remember what was happening in my life. It was like documenting my different moments and different emotional stages. For example I could see whenever I was in a new relationship, whenever I was falling in love, there would be a big patch of red and warm colors and times that I was depressed, even though I wasn’t consciously making a depressing portrait, the color choices which I thought were spontaneous, in the moment, were kind of narrating a much more consistent story. That was pretty fascinating.
What is your main inspiration behind your art, will it be a particular event in your life, or the world or your surroundings?
There are works that I do which is in response or reaction to things that are happening in the world, whether its a certain cause or something that is happening in politics. Generally a lot of times when I make art now, I’ve come to the understanding that in the past like the self portrait project that I was working on was just for me.
The older I get I realize that I don’t make art just for myself anymore, I want to make art that serves people, serves the community that I am part of, the species I am part of. Art is an incredibly powerful tool, it creates a lot of reactions, brings about change and inspires people.
I often try to think what are the needs of people, what’s the most important kind of art right now, what kind of art I can make that can uplift humanity, what kind of art that I can make that can glorify God and creation, what kind of art I can make that can catalyze consciousness of different people and a lot of time I really think the power of art is not so much in the piece itself but its in making things that help stimulate ideas, stimulate questions, or conversations.
As an artist I survive, support my family, my team and community through a transaction, exchanging art for some type of a value and I collect a portion of that value back to support myself. But in reality, when someone chooses to invest in a piece of art or put it on their computer, what I am offering is a visual reminder of their most idealized version of themselves or an improvement on themselves.
Dating back to the self-portrait project, I’ve always been attracted to drawing the human face. When I was 15 or 16 one of my first job was as a portrait artist – I worked on the streets, I would draw homeless people and runaway kids. In summer I would support myself drawing tourists. There was a time when I traveled to Europe and I supported myself through portrait drawing.
It is something I’ve always had a deep love for, and I study a lot of human psychology and just within our human brains in our neocortex there is a specific amount of our brain that is allotted towards recognition of the human face. Its something that we really are hardwired, programmed to have a deep and powerful response to.
Using the face is a powerful way to get someone’s attention and connect with, and as an artist I am always trying to find more ways to connect with people. Its like marketing all over the planet, the reasons why magazines have faces on it, because they know that psychologically that face will really draw your attention.
Not that this statement is really about the face, but its a vehicle to get the attention of some one and once you have the attention, then the symbols, colors, composition start to relay a deeper story.
I’ve come to realize that art has the ability to not only convey messages and meanings, sometimes people see what they need to see in a piece. Its nothing to do with what the artist intended to or not, when they look at it, it catalyzes something deep within them, it gives an opportunity to an individual to connect with something deeper in their own subconscious.
Are those also the key elements you tend to capture in your art?
I’ve realized how important it is to uplift people, if I looked at my art, over the course of the last 25 years, there have been dark moments, moments of fear and insecurity, and sometimes as an artist its easy to use art as a therapy and work out your own condition.
Its easy to connect with different elements of nature, like the animal kingdom. I use a lot of wings that symbolize freedom, I use a lot of butterflies in my work, that is a universal symbol of transformation and change.
There is a piece I just released called Catch a Tiger by the Swallow Tail, if you look at the face its made up of butterfly wings, and the narrative I was working on this piece is the idea of a powerful, ferocious transformation, not a gentle slow transformation. That picture has elements of water and fire, I like to use contrasting elements together as well, showing dichotomy between things.
How long do you generally take to finish a piece?
Sometimes there are pieces that take me 2-3 days, sometimes pieces take me 6-7 months. Sometimes I start on a piece and I lose interest and put it down for several months and come back later on when the moment is right and finish it again. If I look back how many complete pieces I have made in a year, may be 20-30 pieces.
I am more excited about starting pieces, I have hundreds of unfinished pieces that I lose interest in, the starting is my favorite part because it doesn’t take a lot to start a piece, but I find that I can get may be 80%-90% of the piece done rather quickly, but finishing the final steps, mastering it which is the last 10% of the painting can take majority 90% of the time.
I get the question of time more often than any other question, when someone sees my work people want to know time because time is a universal metric. We all know how an hour feels like, what a minute feels like, but I have also come to realize that time is only relative.
Different consciousness experience time in a totally different way, and I have learnt that its actually less about how much time I can dedicate to a piece, but more about the quality of my attention – how powerful is my focus and concentration.
A lot of your art includes Indian symbolic figures, is there any story associated with that?
There are lot of stories associated with that. India has had a significant effect on my life and my art. The art that I make is just the residue left behind from the life that I’ve lived. I use art as a way to document deeper experiences and understandings that I’ve had.
When I went to India two years ago and for the first time I went to the Kumbh mela. I did these workshops in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. It was a really life-changing experience for me.
I have traveled to lot of different places, but I just really fell in love with India and the people of India. I am more of a trance spiritualist, I study lot of different religions – I was raised Catholic, I carry a Bahá’í prayer book, I am fond of a lot of ancient Gnostic teachings on ways of living and understanding the dynamics of consciousness.
From all the places I have traveled if I were to base the legitimacy of religion based on the soul and happiness of the people I would say Hinduism is doing pretty well. I also really love the culture of Hinduism where art is an element of their spirituality.
Every type of religion is kind of a gateway to the undefinable mystery of God, creator and spirit. I like how specifically, the Indian tradition, uses these very visual symbols and images of each different energies as the aspects of the consciousness of the creator. I find that its really powerful and something that I just feel a deep connection with.
I like to listen to Mantras, and the Shiva image is one of my favorites. It was only after going for the mela and learning about Shiva that I got access to the energy of that aspect of God. I feel the energies that are represented within the Indian culture are more inviting and want to be reinvented. These images act like signposts towards each individual’s personal investigation of truth.
Is there a certain kind of connection that you feel to ancient goddesses
I feel I have a really deep connection with Shiva, if I have to classify myself then I would be much like a Shaivite. Krishna has started to capture my heart now more and more, but that has taken more time, Shiva was immediate.
Each of these gods and goddesses and beings represent different aspects of the divine. I’ve connected with Ganesha, really connected with Hanuman, and largely depends on which ever aspect you have a more intuitive attraction to; that’s telling of where you are and which part of the divine you need to make a connection with.
Any particular artist you look up to or has been an inspiration on your path?
There is an artist in Vienna named Ernst Fuchs – I think he is just a gem within humanity. When you look at the work that he has made, its hard to believe that a human being had access to that quality of inspiration. He is prolific and different.
I get inspired by old masters and classical music, Beethoven and Mozart. But as far as contemporary artist is concerned Tipper, he’s an electronic musician, and I just think he’s a wizard. The type of art that inspires me is like the art of the sublime. There’s a point where its so beautiful that I forget that I am listening to electronic sounds or looking at pixels or paint strokes.
There is a sense of timelessness, and soon as you listen to his song it feels like its been part of your life, its that kind of art. Sometimes you look at a painting, and it looks familiar at the same time. It reminds you of something deep, profound piece of information that I had forgotten but I have always known in my heart, that’s the type of art that really gets me excited.