Stephen Andrews' current work involves a project entitled the 1st part of the 2nd half - it is a continuation of a series of drawings of crowds called hoi polloi. That series is based on stills from fictitious surveillance videotape. The work tracks a zoom shot as it draws back from a single figure to, ultimately, the representation of a moment when the individual dissolves into the crowd. These new works shift Andrews' concern from the self to social and from the body to body politic.
The discourse around AIDS and the methods employed in representing this theme have been central to Andrews' work for some time, with this new work seeking to find mechanisms of depicting a treatment-cocktail moment. In an era when many have been 'resurrected', the process of 'starting over' is a complex set of negotiations. The 1st part of the 2nd half is about imagining a future, a simple aspiration in the present but something impossible to consider a scant few years ago. Andrews uses the motif of film as a formal device along with a combination of techniques including sgraffito drawing and photocopy transfer to imitate the look of motion picture film. This visual approach seemingly stops time with mere minutes teased apart into hundreds of its component frames. When installed it is like oversized shots from a 'trim bin' in a pre-digital film-editing suite. Like an editor the viewer must draw the narrative from these assembled fragments.
Simultaneously, Andrews has begun work on a series of what could be referred to as promotional materials. Using a four-colour separation printing technique he produces large paintings based on images from his filmstrips. These paintings recall a time when movie posters were hand-rendered and are intended to address media packaging and its attendant manipulations.
This exhibition is supported by the Art Gallery of Sudbury, Alliance Franšaise de Toronto, Canada Council for the Arts, Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
For almost two decades Stephen Andrews has been exploring a discourse between drawing and photography, especially as they pertain to ideas around issues of the body, of AIDS and of new media and its effect upon traditional understandings of the categories of art. What is prevalent through much of his work is a sense of loss. His partner died of AIDS in the early 90s and this personal loss has weighed heavy in his image making.
Trained as a photographer, Andrews drew from photographic imagery for years. Mythological subjects - then a popular subject matter in Toronto art - pseudo-religious images, images of the body: these works were steeped in a desire to materially and viscerally invoke bodily sensations. With Facsimile, begun in 1991, there was a marked shift in his work towards social representation that occurred at the height of the AIDS pandemic. Andrews began an inquiry into the nature of social representation at a time when it appeared that such issues had been already worked out in much of the media work around identity that marked contemporary art of the 1980s. In Andrews' shift from drawing the body to drawing photographic representations of the body - what he described as a shift from the body to the body politic - his work began to resemble hand-rendered digital imagery. Thus, when many artists were retreating towards the 'real' or embracing computer - generated imagery, Andrews began to simply draw it. Andrews' attempt to restore the image but using only its technological ruin as a referent was a moving demonstration of an avoidable association of loss with representation, a re-curing theme in his work, at the same time as it was a rescue attempt of the body from technology.
Stephen Andrews' work is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Recently a major exhibition of his work was presented at the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery in Vancouver. Part of a small group of artists, Andrews recently participated in a cultural awareness mission to India coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This initiative culminated in an exhibition entitled Think Canada presented in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.