Gagosian London has a real gem of a new show on its hands with this exhibition of works by the late Michael Andrews. This is the first substantial exhibition of Michael’s work in over fifteen years, and it focuses on the landscapes and underwater scenes that preoccupied him in the last twenty-five years of his life.
The works in these years were categorised into five series: four landscapes – Lights, Scotland, Ayers Rock/Australia and English Landscapes – and a fifth, School, on different groups of fish. This exhibition draws from each of these five series and the result is a delightful exhibition of beautiful, romantic and evocative landscapes.
Michael is often associated with painters from the so-called School of London – artists such as Bacon, Freud and Auerbach. There are similarities of course, such as the move away from complete abstraction, but his works are significantly different from theirs. These artists are famous for exploring the human form, playing with it, exploring it; in contrast, Michael’s canvases are often devoid of humans entirely (though their impact and influence is hinted at with objects such as fishing boats, telephone boxes and country estates).
Instead there is a sense of romantic realism in these landscapes, the outlines hazy, like a dream. This effect was largely achieved through Michael employing a spray gun and water-based acrylic paint (you can see the where this paint runs in some of the paintings) and it works wonderfully well.
But what grabs you most is the scale in these images: Trees look small and inconsequential against the monolith that is Ayers Rock (Uluru), shadows of air balloons hint at the insignificance of humans against the vast scale of the oceans, and deer are almost lost in the grand vistas of lush green vales.
There are more than sixty works on display in the gallery and they are curated perfectly. Viewpoints from hot air balloons over bridges, ships and cities dominate the main room, whilst there’s an interesting juxtaposition with the hot arid Australian Outback landscapes hung alongside the lush British fields. And squeezing the large underwater scenes into a smaller room upstairs almost immerses the viewer completely beneath the waves.
Gagosian London, Grosvenor Hill London W1K 3QD, to March 25, 2017.
Permanent Water Mutidjula, by the Kunia Massif (Maggie Spring, Ayers Rock), 1985-1986 © The Estate of Michael Andrews. Courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London
SAX A.D. 832 – First Painting, 1982 © The Estate of Michael Andrews. Courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London. Photo: Lucy Dawkins/Gagosian
Lights VII: A Shadow, 1974 © The Estate of Michael Andrews. Courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London