An Interview with the Artist and Curator Andrew Hancock at the Ace Hotel, Shoreditch
Andrew Hancock is a London-based artist and curator. I had the pleasure of interviewing him at the Ace Hotel before a comprehensive tour of Shoreditch's graffiti. As a matter of research into the the internal mechanisms of the 'art world', he's worked at prestigious art institutions such as Christie's, White Cube, The Royal Academy, Frieze Art Fair and Saatchi. In 2013 Andrew co-founded the cultural events company ARTNAKED and became Art Director of the private members club, 'Library.' He is also an elected member of the Chelsea Arts Club.
As an artist, Andrew mixes a revolving series of works both in static medium and in the conceptual realm. Paintings, documentation, time-based performance, photography and installation works sit within the context of wider conceptual themes under investigation, as he explores diverse subjects from aesthetics to economics, politics to society and the senses, with recurrent themes of the spiritual, corporeal, material and relational. His practice is constantly evolving – heavily steeped in the mythologies of artistic practice and the struggle with the specificities of key art materials.
Andrew has just returned from Moscow where he is showing as part of the 6th Moscow Biennale at the National Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA), a multimedia installation work entitled Oracle I (Temple of the Unseen Artist). He is currently painting in Malta, where he will be showing a new series of work in St Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, as part of the Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale, launching this Friday 13th November 2015.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?
Yes, finally in 2012 I sold a painting to the Chinese Cultural Ministry that was also exhibited at Barbican and is now in Beijing. I chose to put non-creative work to one side and throw all my energies into my art. It was a big risk and has been a terribly hard road, but infinitely rewarding.
What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?
I would hope to say my future works. I’m not yet old enough to have defined myself; I hope to go on...I move with ideas and always hope someone will throw me a challenge!
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
Can I say I would more enjoy some ideally imagined near future? (Elizabethan dentistry leaves much to be desired.) Although, previous generations have enjoyed a degree of mental independence now being fast eroded.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
I can’t bastardise the philosophies of aesthetic, divine or natural beauty into any fleeting remark. Beauty is infinite, it is to be sought.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
When I find something that resonates it reminds me how vital any art form can be to a life, but I return to a few choice classics year on year. I re-read Milton, Wilde, Shakespeare, G.Durrell, Orwell, Hermann, Hesse, Huxley, Spike Milligan and Stephen Fry even, and much poetry. Artist biographies can be very entertaining and you can learn so much about what is possible to achieve in one lifetime. Philosophical and religious texts too have been the most inspirational but are not to be taken too seriously.
My favourite films star British lead actors of very much the ‘Old School’: O’Toole, Burton, Finney, Reed.
Painting is more of a vast subject for me, but I have some perennial favourites. Most often masters of the figurative form but by no means exclusively. Many I love, but it was a surprise when studying much around Surrealism for Art History that Hans Bellmer is perhaps one of the most intriguing painters for me.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Merely being able to buy the time to create. There are so many obstacles it seems like a vice at times to actually paint!
What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
Oh, it would have to be a goddess, Aphrodite perhaps. But mortals don’t fair too well with these creatures mostly - I’ll just have to be lucky. I just created an artwork Oracle I (Temple of the Unseen Artist) and it has reminded me of the structure of the classical world, man and gods and nature combined.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Constraints are often the catalysts of great innovation. I created my first total digital installation in 2015. It became a film of sorts, mixing analogue and digital, real and created things. I would never have thought to do this until I was asked by the curator Anna Dorofeeva at the NCCA. It was the creative process and collaborations (notably with director and digital editor Lindsay K Aliksanyan) that I found instinctively constructive, impulsive and genuine. It has to be art though, not mere tech-hack-work.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Ideologies are dangerous, didacticism is best, then find your own way. Moral philosophy and critical thinking are vital for the soul and society. Then act! And don’t ever let them grind you down.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
Yes. But only in so much as I wish I could choose one day to be an artist, the next a musician, the next a politician, the next a monk, an academic, a playwright, an actor. But art is an obsession and much to my detriment at times. But I stay attuned to my dilettante side, by curating and hosting all kinds of cultural events with my partner Tani Burns as ARTNAKED.
What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?
Tate Britain, National Gallery – both accessible, thorough and FREE!
Also, Caravaggio’s works that hang in the Cathedral of St. John in Valletta are a favourite pilgrimage. I am currently painting a series for exhibition in St. Paul’s Cathedral also in Malta. It’s just deeply moving to draw parallels to the Master when I am conceiving these works, even only abstractly.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Perhaps an institute of the dramatic arts; art direction of a play, ballet or opera perhaps. Its something done historically by some great artists but it must be relevant. The ‘art market’ has in a way segregated fine artists into galleries far too much in this era.
What is your daily routine when working?
It’s too varied. But when I am working I must have a clear day with no other concerns but to create. I used to paint through the night, for years. Now I try and have a clear 12 or 14 hour run starting at noon, then I can divide the day into heavy spadework and later moments of reflection and experimentation.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
Honestly, I’ve had the best, deepest and most inspired experiences in the UK countryside; I’m undeniably rooted there. But recently Moscow, because it’s absurdly excellent, at least to visit. It vastly surpasses cold-war impressions and prejudicial expectations. The architecture and history of the city is intense, but it’s the people make the place.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
Follow your own muse, be gregarious and daring, and try not to let your obsession starve you of life. Be ambitious and take calamity in your stride.
Why do you love what you do?
Love? For years it was a kind of painful martyrdom, painting like pulling teeth. Now everything seems to take me great leaps forward, because I persist. But it still hurts like love.
Group show, ‘Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale’, Malta, 2015
Group Show: ‘To See Sound’, ‘6th Moscow Biennale’, National Centre for Contemporary Art, (NCCA), Moscow, 2015.
Group show, ‘The Other Side’, Chelsea Arts Club, London, 2015
Group show, ‘Start In Art’, & ‘Art Loft’, K35, Moscow, 2014
Installation, ‘Temple’, ‘Chinese Visual Festival’, King’s College, London, 2014
Solo exhibition, ‘Terrorforms’, Denmark Street Studio, London, 2013
Solo exhibition, ‘Flaming Hearts’, Maestro Arts, London, 2013
Group show, ‘Creative Cities Collection’, Barbican Centre, London, 2012
Permanent collection, ‘CSPACD / National Collection of China’, in at Olympic Museum, Beijing
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com