Bristol's creativity inspires dream-like work
Andrew Sutherland, a painter raised in the West Country and southern Africa and now back in these parts, cites the Surrealist art of Marcel Duchamp and the blocky abstracts of the Cubists among his influences.
And, looking at Sutherland's quirky, angular paintings, it's easy to see traces of both schools. A typical canvas will often contain some unexpected element – a girl's head floating in the hazy sun above a city, for example – and will also share the Cubists' linear forms, all straight lines, corners and angles.
But there's much more going on in these pictures, too: you'll also find a soft playfulness, almost a dream-like flavour, thanks to Sutherland's naïve drawing style and a soft palette of colours. Another artistic influence, Sutherland reveals, is the great proto-Impressionist Joseph Turner, a master at conveying effects of light and haze. The overall effect is not of bewilderment but of bliss: these are paintings to gaze at contentedly.
Small wonder, then, that Sutherland's art is proving increasingly popular. A concentrated string of exhibitions in his native Cape Town last year have been followed by shows in Bristol, where he arrived a few short months ago. This month he gets his first solo exhibition in town, at the Tobacco Factory café/bar – and you'd be well advised to take a look.
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"I am first and foremost inspired by what is happening all around me," Sutherland tells Weekend from his studio in Bristol's former Bridewell Island police and fire station complex. "People, cultures and styles; conversations, questions and answers; pictures, movies and music – it all spills out in my drawings and paintings. I love subtlety, mystery and wonder, and I try to create soft, dreamlike landscapes through use of colour and shape."
Born in Namibia, Sutherland attended secondary school just outside Bath before spending his late teens and 20s in South Africa, studying art and working as an illustrator for various Cape Town publishing houses. Since 2008 he has been a one-man band, developing his career as a painter and illustrator. He moved to Bristol in April.
"It seemed like the right place to move – not only is it near my childhood home, it's also well known for its creative community. I love Bristol's balance of city and nature. It has a strong street culture, yet sits in the middle of some beautiful countryside." While continuing to travel and exhibit globally, Sutherland plans to make Bristol his home for the foreseeable future.
On arriving here, he got involved with Artspace Lifespace, the body of artists and performers who had turned the former Bridewell complex – now known as The Island – into performance spaces and artists' workshops, and established a studio there. A group exhibition, Storytelling, followed, in which the resident artists used the building and its many stories as inspiration: they've also since opened a shop, Cell Out, within the complex to sell their creations.
"I have been involved with art since I was a child and at no point would I have chosen any other path," Andrew reflects. "The last ten years have been a rollercoaster ride, with the usual joys and hardships you'd expect in a creative industry. It is not always easy, but I would rather struggle and keep creating than give it up for security.
"I never tire of creating. I find that if I am lacking the creative spark the best thing to do is travel, as new experiences always set it off again.
"That's definitely been my experience in Bristol: I can feel the creativity around me pushing its way through me."
Andrew Sutherland exhibits at the Tobacco Factory café/bar, Bristol from July 30 to September 1. See listings for details.