It’s a fascinating story, worthy of a film script. Andy Bullock former Art Director at Saatchi and Saatchi with 30 years’ global experience under his belt, moves from France to Oxford, finally settling in Jericho.
The house had belonged to his friends -the famous Oxford University mathematicians Yael Dowker and her husband Clifford – and when Andy went up to the attic, there amidst the junk, he found box upon box of Clifford’s mathematical hand-written formulae, all relating to topology – the theory of knots.
“it’s really important that people don’t think my work is about knots, but more about the complexity of life, relationships and what it means to be human.”
Andy was instantly drawn to their almost hieroglyphic form and innate mystery, and despite his photographic bent decided to use them as the basis for his Masters Fine Art degree show at Oxford Brookes.
The results are a series of glowing paintings, soon to be exhibited at Darle and The Bear in Woodstock, as part of his first solo show AWAKEN.
But of course, the knots are a veil for so much more: “People keep asking me why I’m so obsessed with knots but of course they are metaphoric, and this work is more about the complexity of life, its relationships and what it means to be human,” he explains.
“People say that art is cathartic but I need it”
“Besides, I’m not a mathematician. I have Dyscalculia which is like maths dyslexia so I don’t understand the equations at all. I look them purely as a basis for art – more than just numbers. I just saw the poetry in them and wanted to make a physical interpretation.
The resulting rope works are heavily layered both in colour and paint, the conceptual patterns almost scratched into the surface revealing the depths beneath, becoming more abstract as the series goes on.
“I did a lot of research and drawing before I actually started painting – finding a technique I was happy with,” he explains.
“There is so much going on beneath the surface so it’s been quite a physical and organic process, quite intense. Not what I’d call a leisurely pastime,” Andy chuckles. “But I like to think of it as a series of works rather than individual pieces.
“this is about the essence of me, what I want to say and how I want to say it”
Throw in a soundscape of rollercoasters demonstrating a complete knot, two sculptures made with silver ducting, one suspended from the ceiling, his outdoor photographs, the History Tiles series set in lurid colours to highlight life on earth after our extinction, his Ministry Of Truth silkscreen collage exemplifying the government’s Big Brother attitude during Covid and the accompanying news headlines, and you’re in for a fully immersive experience at Darle and the Bear.
“Being creative has always been the driving force in my life ever since I cam remember. It’s really kept me going. So this is about the essence of me, what I want to say and how I want to say it. And although I never stopped working artistically in some capacity, I can now bring my life’s experience to my art,” he explains.
“Until now my commercial career dominated, but this was something I’d wanted to do for years and the results have really surprised me,” he says looking around the gallery space, “I’ve rediscovered painting with a passion.”
Indeed, you can see how fast Andy’s mind whirls trying to get it all down in a palpable form, his degree show jostling for attention alongside his love of music, invention, design and his environmental concerns.
And while nothing can take away from the beauty of Andy’s work, or its brilliance, he is open about his struggles with his mental health, particularly during lockdown, when art offered him a way out.
“My clinical depression is just a part of me. I had a mental breakdown in my 30s and during Covid I had flashbacks to that time. That’s why I made my demon series – it was just to try to get some of my feelings down on a piece of paper, to get these black and red devils out of me. People say that art is cathartic but I need it.
“It made me realise I couldn’t be an artist in total isolation. I need a sense of connection with the outside world.
The results adorning the Woodstock gallery’s walls are testament to this, laying his artistic soul bare, but rather than being nervous about such an intimate and personal display, Andy is really positive about the upcoming exhibition.
“AWAKEN is about refining my thoughts and reflecting on myself as an artist – finding out a bit more about myself and what I want”
“I’m very excited about opening at Darle and the Bear. Tired maybe,” he laughs, “but it’s a privilege to provide such a physical point of view. Darle and the Bear is such an original gallery and to have my first solo exhibition here is perfect. I wouldn’t have held it anywhere else in Oxford.”
“If anything AWAKEN is about refining my thoughts and reflecting on myself as an artist – finding out a bit more about myself and what I want. And I think I’ve achieved that.”
Andy Bullock’s AWAKEN runs at Darle and the Bear in Woodstock from August 12 – 31. For more information go to https://darleandthebear.co.uk/exhibition-andy-bullock-2021.asp