A few weeks ago I went to see Andy Fullalove’s exhibition, entitled ‘Sheltered’, at Leeds Central Library’s Arts Space, which has recently re-opened. The rooms are now ideal for art displays, located aside from Leeds Art Gallery, in a quiet and light space. The exhibition comprised solely of Fullalove paintings, curated by the artist, sparingly dispersed throughout the white and grey rooms. I was fortunate enough to speak with the artist. I endeavoured to gain a greater understanding of his energetic and subtle work.
Fullalove enjoys half-revealing images beneath layers of paint. He explains that sometimes a friend will contact him, having gazed at a painting in a certain light, and seen something they had never noticed before. This could be a house, a person, a tree, or any other section of the landscape that has disappeared within these multi-faceted, vibrant works. This is a whimsical notion, encouraging the viewer to engage with the work and to wonder as to what else may lay beneath the surface. In ‘Edge of Isolation’ one can imagine that with one more brush stroke, the little house could become an aspect of the deep blue painterly sky above. Fullalove gestures towards the delicate aspects of painting, in that with a momentary decision, the painting and its meaning can change entirely. This work comprises of two canvases adjoined, encouraging the idea that the work could be broken in two, forming separate entities, alluding to tectonic plates. The little house is on the edge of isolation itself, in a vast, looming and moody blue and green landscape, and becomes immersed within it.
The painter likes strong contrasts and uses them to convey his concerns regarding the raw and harsh aspects of living in nature. He is interested in the extreme circumstances human beings can survive within. Fullalove’s work is usually not entirely abstract. In this series he places objects and figures into landscapes to give the works an element of reality, establishing a firmer sense of meaning. This is especially successful in his paintings featuring a tiny, solitary figure, such as ‘Distant Shelter’.The artist strongly expresses the subordination of man to nature in this work, through the scale of the moon and tree in relation to the person, while illustrating nature’s ability to become our shelter. We are both threatened and protected by aspects of nature. Intriguingly Fullalove points out that this lone figure, who looks away from us, is a person in his life. They have no idea it is them. This gives you a sense of the artist’s playful and contemplative nature, making for beguiling, unpredictable works that we may never fully grasp.
“I start with a title or phrase, which will have come from writings I do whilst looking within the landscape, and then paint what that means to me. Only when the painting finally reveals itself to me as that title or phrase do I know that it’s finished.”
The artist does not work constantly in the landscape; his work is about looking and re-looking. He does not work from meticulous drawings, but works from feelings and memories of moments, often re-visiting ideas or working off of a constant, nagging feeling. Fullalove is aware of fellow artists, but states that he tries not to look at them for too long, in order to maintain his own style. He loves Howard Hodgkin for his fearless use of colour.
When Fullalove was a little boy he would sit on his grandfather’s knee as he painted. His oil paints were left to Andy, who created his first painting aged 10 (a copy of Van Gough’s Sunflowers, in oil.) The artist is still naturally drawn to painting in oil. The medium gives his work a vitality and luminosity.
It is important that his work is always evolving. He wants his works to look like paintings in their materiality, and is not concerned with high-realism. He creates composite works containing fragments of man-made objects merged with the natural world around them, which dominates space. We are lured in by these little man-made pieces; it is in our nature to seek the familiar and the stable; we see a house and feel more comfortable somehow. This is a piece of our reality that we can relate to, moving away from pure abstraction. In ‘Solitude’, Fullalove emphasises the overpowering presence of nature through a heavily vertical canvas, placing a small house and telegraph pole at the very base, dominated by a vast, rosy-orange sky that streams towards the ground.
‘Silent Landscape’ has a painterly quality that creates a sense of a never-ending journey. The pale, cool ground is juxtaposed with its dark, relentless surroundings. This is a muted and desolate painting, demonstrating the other side of Fullalove’s current work, contrasting with the energetic, colourful pieces within the series. It is affective and highly textural.
Fullalove’s paintings explore the notion of humans living within the landscape, engaged in a constant battle. The artist is interested in the fact that we are tiny compared to the world around us; that natural forces can wipe us out, with or without shelter. He engages with the textural make-up of the land, its solidity and weaknesses, its multiple, ever-changing, yet constant aspects.
‘Sheltered’ runs until 23rd May 2014 at Leeds Central Library’s Arts Space. Andy will donate 20% of proceeds to Leeds Neonatal Service, whose work he strongly supports. Further details on the artist’s work can be found on his website.
Edge of Isolation, 2013. Oil on canvas, 125cm x 89 cm.
Distant Shelter, 2013. Oil on canvas, 70cm x 60 cm.
Solitude, 2013. Oil on canvas, 122 cm x 46 cm.
Silent Landscape, 2012. Oil on canvas, 89 cm x 125 cm.
Katherine April Caddy, 27th April 2014.
Exhibition photographs by Benjamin Selby.