Isaac Andrews is not your average 17 year old. Having started making art seriously a couple years ago out of boredom, he is at the beginning of his career. Influenced by Dadaism, Conceptualism and Surrealism his multimedia and collage work make striking moral and political comments. Not only has he collaborated with the likes of Basement X Nike but he has just launched his limited collection of shoes with Converse. Read below for to find out more about Isaac, his work and his plans.
Did you ever have art lessons growing up?
I did Art GCSE and now I do A-level. I guess when I started doing Art GCSE, I did have to spend more time doing art and so I did get better at it and enjoy it a lot more. It was never something I felt like I needed to be taught. Even now, the stuff that I make and the way I make it aren’t stuff I’m learning. I’m often teaching my teachers because for me, exploring and messing about is more important.
Was there an art teacher or family member growing up that really encouraged your art?
No one in my family does art. Genuinely, there was no one when I was growing up that was a big influence on me doing art. My art teachers were always like ‘he’s not good at art’ during primary school and the beginning of secondary - I wasn’t good at art - so they had a point. There wasn’t ever a person pushing it.
How do you find the motivation to create art?
A lot of my work is social commentary, so it’s often very politically or morally charged. I don’t have a very big platform at all, but I have a platform regardless and there are some people that I can influence. If I can use my art to influence that change, whether that forces someone to question how they see something or re-evaluate something small - that’s crazy for me. Also, once you start, you can’t really stop. I have put time, effort and my own money into stuff like getting resources for my studio - it would be pointless to throw it all away now. There are also lots of projects that I have in the future and they always motivate me.
How do you find the balance between school work and doing projects with global brands?
I don’t really! I struggle with it, but for my parents and me, school has been a priority - it’s the most important thing. Art always fell into extra time but it’s got to a point where the only time I can make art is in the middle of the night - 2am, 3am because I don’t have the time otherwise. I go to a relatively academic school and have my A-levels, so I have a lot of school work to do. Then there’s a social life and trying to prepare for an exhibition or do a project - it’s difficult but it’s all about sacrificing. But I’m happy doing it because I love what I do.
What A-levels are you doing?
English Literature, Philosophy and Religion, Art and EPQ.
What are your plans for uni?
I have no clue! I’m in my first year of A-levels so I have a year until I am out in the real world. There are a couple of different things that I might do. I think I will do an Art Foundation and then see what’s happening in my life after that year.
You created a self-titled book ‘Isaac Andrews,’ why did you choose to do so in an age of digital media?
I love art books, I have a ridiculous amount of them in my studio, bedroom, house and I always turn to them as inspiration not just for the art element but also the way they are presented - I think they are amazing. To have your own art book is quite a big step for me as it’s seen as quite a big thing for an artist to have. I decided to do mine at the beginning of lockdown as a ‘lockdown project’ as I would probably go insane! I decided the book could be an exhibition of sorts; as it was a cohesive selection of work which would have been an exhibition if we didn’t go into lockdown. Also, I wanted to raise money for a good cause - ‘Médecins Sans Frontières.’ It was the beginning of the Coronavirus peak in Europe and the World and MSF were doing amazing work sending doctors across the world to places where people couldn’t get the needed healthcare.
Who are your top 5 favourite artists?
There are so many that I could name, these artists are the ones that inspire me:
- Arthur Jafa
- Hannah Hoch
- Salvador Dali
- Damien Hirst
- Max Ernst
From the artists you named it seems that you are inspired by Surrealism, can you tell us more?
Surrealism is a massive influence as well as Dadaism, Neo-Dadaism and Conceptualism especially with a lot of my newer work. It’s difficult because a lot of people ask what art movement my art comes under. I’ve tried and I can’t really pin-point it from one movement but those are the main four that inspire me.
If you could have an exhibition in any gallery which would it be and why?
White Cube in Bermonsey is one of the most amazing galleries and has the most amazing art, artists and exhibitions.
Your work seems like a mix of collage and work with mirrors etc? Can you tell us a bit about your technical approach to art?
My work from last year and previous exhibitions was all collage and all very similar - large scale pieces and all hand done by me - it was very hands on, I would do it for hours on end. More recently, I diverted away from that style because I felt like it was getting to its fruition: there wasn’t more that I could explore with it. I wanted to keep the conceptual idea - creating and telling new stories with other images but thought there must be another way of doing it because it all looked the same and was close to becoming boring. I started exploring a bit more with mediums and materials. A lot of my work is digitally formed on Photoshop or Adobe and comes into person by me. So, my mirror piece is a graphic I created online, I printed them out, turned them into hand stencils and then spray painted them onto the mirror. A lot of other pieces are digital collages. I’ve moved away from one singular medium because I wanted to continue the initial idea but into other mediums.
You have done a project with Converse! Do you mind telling us how that came about and the process?
It came about in quite a weird way. Someone reached out to me, who I sort of knew, and said ‘call me, here’s my phone number.’ I rang him and there was potential to do a project which wasn’t a direct collaboration - me doing something with their social media. As time passed, the idea changed.
They’ve sent me a number of shoes in a range from size 5 to 11 and I am customising them using their logo to create a sad face by cutting it out and sticking it on. Those are going to be raffled on a give away, you have to donate £5 to enter. We were going to do it for mental health awareness month but didn’t want to push it time wise. I’m also happier doing it outside of that month because I didn’t want it to be ‘it’s mental health awareness month and so it can only happen now.’ I wanted it to be ‘we should focus on this no matter if it’s mental health awareness month or not.’ It’s an important issue to talk about and that 'it’s ok to not be ok’ you can be sad - that’s why it’s a sad face. Also, being from an all-boys school it’s scarily taught me how boys aren’t really allowed to have emotions. I also lost a close friend two years ago to suicide and so this is for him. I’ve wanted to do something for him for a long time, but I never felt like it was right - I wanted to make it perfect.
You are so young and already have such a following, are you ever worried that it's happening too quickly?
That’s a good question and one that I ask myself a lot. I don’t want to peak too early because as much as I say it’s hard to get into the industry there is a reason for that: you do have to know what you’re talking about. I’m really open, in the fact that I know I have so much to learn and one of the reasons why I’m not wanting to sign to a gallery just yet is because my work isn’t the level it should be to sign to a gallery. Yes, it is quite early but what I think is, I’m putting in work now as well as time, money and effort to do it now and hopefully it will make me better when I’m older when everyone enters.
Do you have any tips for young artists?
Don’t ask me because I’m not the best person to ask but one thing I would say to every young artist is: don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to share your work because you never know who’s going to see it. My work is through social media and that is an amazing resource you can have every single person in the world see your work. So, I would advise very young artists to use it if they can. Also, be open to criticism, it will only make your work better and no artist should not want to make their work better. Take advice from people and learn, go to as many galleries as possible.
Do you have any projects or plans for the future?
Yes, I’m hoping to stage another exhibition this year (corona permitting) but that’s something I want to be perfect. My first two exhibitions were 6-7 months apart but this time I’m taking more time to get a full body of work together. Another goal is to have an international exhibition at some point next year in 2021, maybe Paris? One goal which has always been a goal of mine is to continue to create work that I love as well as work and collaborate with other artists.
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