Sunday, 23 January 2011

Meeting Andrew Tozer

Imagine an artist; he is sitting beneath a growling grey sky, absorbed by the cloud shapes, the changes in the light, the nuances of colour on a wet road,  unperturbed by the imminent rain.  In your mind's eye he returns to a garret and feverishly commutes the day from sketches and plein air studies into a larger painting. 
He could be Monet or any one of the Impressionist artists of the nineteenth century.  He isn't because he is sitting next to you on the beach, or parked up in his car, watching your world and painting it.

Andrew Tozer lives and breathes art.  He is the embodiment of a tradition that demands skills like drawing and an understanding of form and tone.    He is an artist born out of time.  Gone is the aggressive attitude of the past decade of young British artists, nowhere to be heard is the response "it is art because I say it is" and the only blank canvasses you will find in his studio are ones waiting to be painted upon.

Andrew constantly challenges himself, questioning whether he will be able to capture that fleeting moment, the wind on the water, the movement of masts in the rain.  He works hard for his art and his studio is testament to that.  It is a garret, an attic room in his home, reached by a perilous ladder from his children's bedroom, it is as unassuming as a studio as Andrew is as an artist.  He paints because he has to.  He has a need to absorb and record, more excited by a grey rainy day than by brilliant sunshine and blue skies.  Distracted by rain caught in headlamps while driving at night.  His pallet is of a few carefully chosen colours, a lot of greys at the moment although I suspect that is because it is winter.  
His paintings are so deeply rooted in the moment his working pallet reflects that.  Also because he is so practised at plein air painting not only is he able to absorb and reproduce a fleeting moment of light but also he seems to be able to do the same with the emotional response.  His boats clink in the breeze, the water moves, the rain is wet and children play on the beach, it seems hugely possible to hear their distant voices.
He grew up in Cornwall wandering across beaches, through woodlands and along creeks as a child of farming family with a mother who is also an artist.  The passion for painting Cornwall is an easy marriage, this is where he is at home and where his natural responses began and continue.
After moving to London to study illustration he quickly realised that he was a painter rather than an illustrator although the training in the craft of drawing and composition is evident in every single painting he does.  He is a keeper of sketchbooks and it is possible to evidence his paintings right back to the first quick sketches.
His book shelves are bulging with sketchbooks full of his own drawings and books of all shapes and sizes full of the work of artists that he admires.  His influences are many, Fred Cuming, Joaquin Sorolla, William Nicholson, Claude Monet, Pierre Bonnard, all of them recorders of the everyday, masters of light and lion tamers of paint.
Andrew is an artist who believes in learning, learning how to see, learning how to speak visually and never resting, never relying on the fact that he is already a master of what he does but constantly reaching further. His work is much admired and collected although, when I was talking with him, his most treasured compliments were from a group of young art students and some primary school children.  "We really like your work"  And indeed, we do!
His new and exciting exhibition will open with a private view on Thursday 27th January 6pm till 8pm and will continue until Saturday 5th February.  Don't miss it!

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