ANDREW VASS – DRAWINGS, from the essay by Martin Golding, May 2013
"What the painter attempts is not to reconstitute an anecdote, but to constitute a pictorial event." Georges Braque
Andrew Vass’s drawings start from an experience of landscape that is common to us all, as we move through and see around us an environment. We carry that familiar experience in our bodies; our physical sense of how we navigate the external world and the way it impresses itself on us gives us the means, in turn, of imagining it. And to imagine it is to recognise the emotional charge with which it touches us.
In these drawings we register Vass’s perceptual journeys and bodily displacements as they are transmitted through the way his hand manipulates charcoal or pastel. Each mark is a trace of the shape an observed or remembered landscape takes in his mind. In this evolution, the ‘anecdote’ is transmuted into a visual conceptualisation that stands by itself. We are acutely aware of how the different pressures of the mark transmit an emotional charge. The force that the mark thereby accrues joins the artist’s experience to what we ourselves bring to looking. As we open ourselves to what the drawing intimates of the artist’s engagement, we are enabled to create within ourselves an emotional experience that is our own.
These drawings offer rich evidence of Andrew Vass’s ability to integrate powerfully suggestive layers of implication in a way that is at once highly conceptual and wholly dependent on the experience of the thinking eye. They show us too, how the mark – the precipitate of that experience - in a continually self-renewing fashion can stand as metaphor for itself, enacting thecomplex duplicities of sight and the emotional disclosures they make to us.
Outside the City Wall , from the essay by Hisham Matar, 2007
The first time I stood in front of a picture by Andrew Vass I found the experience somewhat unsettling. I could see the depiction of a landscape, suggestions of a location, hints of specificity, yet nothing to hold on to: certainly no tree. The relentless markings seem to be focused on mapping the dislocation, my dislocation. They are not so much concerned with looking in as with denoting the barrier that separates. His is a language of yearning; its despair found in its astonishing ability to reveal the division. The pictures stand against Western pictorial traditions of landscape. They do not attempt to conquer, penetrate, possess or measure nature, but are oddly content with the unresolvedness of being.
Although often inspired by places at the fringes of urban centres – a junction, a roundabout – they are not a record or a depiction of specific locations. The sketches, inspired by the discordant geometry of modern urban landscapes, become the backbone, the skeletal beginnings for complex drawings and paintings. In this way Vass is a poet – concerned less with the thing, than what the thing inspires – and a mystic too in his meditations on where he finds himself in the world. This is not to say that his gaze is nostalgic – for as much as they stand against traditional landscape art, his pictures also stand against nostalgia – but he does honour the otherwise overlooked and neglected.
Frequency, from the essay by David Ryan, 2005
Vass's work is bound up with the fusion of mark making and looking: they record the probing of the eye as it is translated into a materiality, an idea expressed eloquently by Roland Barthes: 'The line, however light, or uncertain it may be, always refers to a force, to a direction; it is an energon, a labour which reveals' which makes legible 'the trace of its pulsion and its expenditure. The line is a visible action.' In the drawings and paintings of Andrew Vass we find a similar energon' whereby the mark or the trace is a unit for directly building and constructing without losing any sense of this physicality or sensuality.
Often made on location, Vass's drawings document a particular interface between the artist and a specific perceptual grasp of what lies before him: pressure and erasure document proximity and distance, the movement of the eye, and the sensation of perceived planes and masses; grasping in his words, 'a property that lies between surface and image.'
In this way, the paintings and drawings actively produce space: a space that reverberates somewhere between observation and construction, rather like what Willem de Kooning referred to as a 'glimpse'. Moreover it is a painterly space that isn't about grounding representations, an idea which can ultimately be related back to specific urges within modernism: that of the naturalistic and the anti-naturalistist.
What Vass manages to hold on to is both positions, while acknowledging that his works ultimately possess an 'independent life'.
2014 PARK DRAWINGS, The Cold Press, Holt, Norfolk
2013 DRAWINGS, The Cold Press, Holt, Norfolk
2011 Journey Planner, The Brewery Tap, Ipswich
2010 Eight Drypoints, The Cold Store, Norwich
2010 LANDSCAPE, Broadbent, London
2008 The Garage Space, Harkstead, Suffolk
2007 Close at Hand, Broadbent, London
2007 Surfacing, Horace Blue, Norwich
2006 The Garage Space, Harkstead, Suffolk
2005 Frequency, Broadbent, London
2000 North House Gallery, Manningtree
2013 THE GROUND ON WHICH WE WALK, with Photographer Mark Edwards, UCS Waterfront Gallery
2012 CROSS COUNTRY, Broadbent, London, with Kate Palmer, Luke Elwes, curated by Andrew Vass
2010 Artists Books etc, North House Gallery, Manningtree
2009 Alex Pearl. Andrew Vass, Peppermint SHED, Suffolk
2007 Works on Paper, The Strand Gallery, Aldeburgh
2004 Will and Compulsion, Broadbent, London
2002 Out of Space, Ipswich
2014 The London Original Print Fair, Royal Academy of Arts
2013 The London Original Print Fair, Royal Academy of Arts
2013 Drawing OPEN, One Church Street Gallery, Great Missenden
2012 Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012, London, Hastings, Birmingham
2011 FOUND, Kettle's Yard at the Brompton Garage, London
2011 The Class Of, Ipswich Art School Gallery and Waterfront Gallery UCS
2009 fordayslong Centre for Recent Drawing, London
2008 Kettles Yard Open 2008, Cambridge
2008 Suffolk Showcase, Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery
2008 Mindspace, Ruskin Gallery, ARU, Cambridge
2007 Broadbent, Toronto Art Fair
2007 Synopsis, North House Gallery, Manningtree
2003 Jerwood Drawing Prize, London etc
2002 Drawn Together, Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery
2001 Jerwood Drawing Prize, London etc
2011 School of Arts, University Campus Suffolk
2008 Ground, Toronto
2008 Brand, Literary Magazine
2005 Frequency, Broadbent. London
Essay: Frequency, by David Ryan
2007 Close at Hand, Broadbent, London
Essay: Outside the City WallA Personal Response to the Work of Andrew Vass by Hisham Matar
Department of Prints and Drawings, The British Museum
Ipswich and Colchester Museums Collection
Town Hall Galleries, Richmond, London
Private Collections in the UK, Germany, USA and Canada
2012- Visiting Drawing Lecturer, The City and Guilds London Art School
2011 Artist led Workshops, FIRSTSITE, Colchester
2011 Visiting Lecturer, Drawing for Etching, The Princes Drawing School, London
1998 - 2002 Visiting Lecturer, Drawing/Painting, ARU, Cambridge Art School
1992 - 2011 Part-time Lecturer, Drawing/Painting/Printmaking/Illustration, Suffolk New College, Ipswich