Watch this grad's space
“If your dreams as an artist are based on what you can do, then you aren’t dreaming big enough. Get out of the constraints of the gallery world and go it alone,” Renegade Swedish painter and BA Fine Art graduate at Central St Martins (CSM), Johan Andersson, 25, told Arts London News.
The budding artist has been dubbed as “one to watch” on the London art scene. His provocative portrait work has raised eyebrows by taking outcasted members of society out of the context in which they are normally seen and bringing them into a new light.
Last year he was publically commissioned to paint a portrait of Amy Winehouse in Camden Town Tube station after her death, and hung a painting of ex-Libyan president Colonel Gaddafi opposite the houses of parliament during the Libyan civil war.
Andersson has seen huge success internationally since one of his nude paintings were picked up by the National Portrait Gallery during his second year at CSM.
He said: “I painted this girl who was quite nervous about the whole experience of being painted nude, and it came across in the work. Everybody thought that I’d made her look like she’d had a vasectomy, and they thought there was this huge concept behind it. In reality, I’d just forgotten to paint the nipple!” He laughed.
Andersson’s latest work, “Stolen Faces”, is on show at Gallery Different this week. It features raw and remarkably solemn portraits of shunned members of society such as Jerry, who was shot in the face with a shotgun, and a transvestite who has HIV.
This weekend he will be exhibiting the striking images in Englefield House near Reading, a country estate that used to host Elizabeth I.
Andersson will be replacing ancient 17th century paintings of aristocrats that hang on the walls there with his Stolen Faces collection.
He maintained that “going alone” in his career has helped him break free from the institutional and financial constraints that exist when artists sign up with galleries, but equally acknowledges the assistance they provide when helping to sell work and to fund young artists.
“Stepping out to where the fire is, where the danger is, is where you get the most inspiration. Not from within an art fair, as important as they are. Creatives need to know they are part of something bigger.
“You need to think, where can your art have the most impact? Where can it have the most power?
“With the economic climate there is a lot of insecurity amongst graduates. The average artist earns just £8,000 a year. I say rent a warehouse, get together with some friends and make it happen,” he said.
Andersson said his inspiration came from grim realisations he had about the world around him: “A friend of mine was walking down the street in India and saw 13 year old girls in the windows for sale. They were about to be sold for sex trafficking.
“They were all dead in the face, like their souls had been zapped out of them. But the girl at the end was smiling. My friend asked why that was, and was told that this particular day was her first day on the trafficking market.
“That really just hit me, and led me to want to travel the world to pursue and expose the enslavement of Western consumerism in my paintings.”
Andersson is moving to Los Angeles later this month to work on a film which he says will involve travelling to South America, India and Africa “trying to save the lives of ten individuals through art”.
Also check out this time lapsed video of Andersson at work.
Find out more at artbelow.org.uk