I recently visited the latest exhibition at the James Freeman Gallery, which is always guaranteed to have artists of great talent: this time was no different. ‘Teraphim’ is the title of the exhibition, a beautiful dialogue between two contemporary artists: the English painter Iain Andrews and the Colombian sculptor Carlos Zapata. The two vary greatly in expressing the same themes, in their approach to art history, art history, mythology and emotion. This makes their contrast all the more interesting. I had the pleasure to discuss this with Iain Andrews, who is an art therapy teacher as well as an artist. It was a pleasure to meet a person and artist who shares my views on the potential benefits of art on individuals.
Allow me to introduce him:
Your latest exhibition, showing at the James Freeman Gallery, includes your work and that of Carlos Zapata. How did you decide on the title, ‘Teraphim’?
The word Teraphim comes from the Hebrew and refers to the household gods or idols that were worshipped in ancient Jewish writings – such as the instance of Rachel stealing the household gods in the Old Testament. James Freeman came up with the idea of calling our show Teraphim, since it seemed to refer to the physicality of the work, which is something that he was keen to emphasize in both our practices when putting the show together. The link with the Old Testament is something that also ties in with my work, particularly the works that explore the idea of the Prophet or Outsider, through the figures of Elijah and Jozef Stawinoga.
This exhibition is also a beautiful meeting of cultures, between your work as an English painter and that of Zapata as a Colombian sculptor. These are different types of artistic expression: in your opinion, what do you have in common, and what differentiates the two of you?
I think, as James has mentioned in his excellent catalogue essay, that both of our practices emphasise the physicality of the art work. Both of us prefer a surface that emphasises the hand of the artist through gesture and accident rather than a polished, smooth finish that seeks to disguise the means of its creation. So there is a sculptural quality to my paintings, and certainly a painterly quality (in terms of his use of colour for instance) to Carlos’s sculptures.
It’s more tricky to pin down differences, since there are so many ways in which our work differs, aside from the obvious (two dimensional versus three dimensional worlds). I don’t know Carlos very well, having only met him at the opening, so I don’t know if he has a faith, but I would say I’m making works within the tradition of past painters who have had a belief in the stories of the Old Testament,(as opposed to commentating on the subject from a position of skepticism) and I know that isn’t a particularly common position for one to be in today.
The Eat Me
What is your artistic research?
I see the practice of painting as research. I would also think about my work as a psychotherapist partly in terms of taking a journey in someone’s unconscious, inner world, perhaps in the way that a landscape painter would walk in the landscape before making a painting.
How do you define emotion? When was the last time you felt great emotion?
That’s a tricky question. I think our world and culture is becoming increasingly narcissistic at an alarming rate, and the idea that an individual can inhabit a world defined by their own emotions rather than by objective reality is one that seems more and more attractive, but I wonder at the value of that. The last time I felt strong emotion was seeing Aston Villa score against Everton yesterday. I’m not sure that could be called ‘great’ emotion however.
Andrews_I_Corvus Corax (St. Anthony)
What is your favourite colour?
It’s tricky considering colour in isolation, since colour is about relationships. I love Cobalt Green deep against a fleshy pink though.
Alongside being an artist, you also lead art therapy classes with secondary school pupils. What is your teaching method?
I work as an art psychotherapist with individual students who are struggling with issues of abuse or neglect or loss. I don’t really have a method, since to work in this way means to be led by and to respond to the individual child, but I would say that trying to always apply the rule ‘listen slowly’ is my method.
Horeb (A whisper)
How did you get into art therapy?
I have always been interested in the utility of art, and what that means. How it can be used and enjoyed by the layman, beyond the walls of the gallery space.
In your years of teaching, you’ve come into contact with many young people in many different situations. Have you witnessed them benefit from art therapy? How?
I think a young person gains what I can only refer to as a kind of ‘poetry of the soul’, an ability to articulate and express their difficult and unmanageable stuff, when art therapy works. I’ve worked as a therapist for 19 years now, so there are many stories of growth, and sadly some of tragedy, that I’ve witnessed.
The Lie Tree
What is your favourite memory from these experiences?
I don’t have a single memory that I would refer back to, more of a general sense of possibility and change over time. Its always lovely when young people you have worked with get in touch years later to let you know how they are doing however, and it’s a huge privilege to have shared their journey with them.
Have you got any future projects in either of your professions?
I have just had a book published that I have written and illustrated aimed at young people struggling with loss – What we lost in the Storm.
Buy “What we lost in the Storm” -> here
I have a group show coming up with the Contemporary British Painting group, of which I am a member soon, and have work currently in the Manchester Open at HOME, Manchester. Much of my work is currently in Beijing, awaiting a gallery opening and initial show with Gallery 339 there (which was delayed by Covid).
The exhibition will run until the 3rd of February 2022, and I greatly recommend a visit. I wish both artist the best of luck.
The Tiger’s Bride
The Loves of Lady Purple