Andrew Burns Colwill
Andrew is one of the original Bristol street artists (he was painting on walls when you could only buy spray paint in garages). He is both the alpha and the omega of street art - his work having recently been described as 'the next wave in street art - a movement of using fine art techniques portraying a powerful environmental or political message'. This can be seen in his recent Arctic Scream at last year's Upfest, which received acclaim from art bloggers and critics alike. His previous piece for Upfest was named in the top 70 street art pieces in the UK from Getty Images. For him, the street art scene stands for a new revolution like the impressionists did at the turn of the twentieth century - "when ordinary people could at last express themselves and art wasn’t solely for the landowners and the church.” Whether on walls or on canvas, his work is fine art with a twist, and is simply stunning.
Andy at The Coopers Arms, Bedminster Bristol for Upfest
Photography Neil Roberts 212 Productions
Arctic Scream at The Coopers Arms, Bedminster Bristol for Upfest
Photography Neil Roberts 212 Productions
Unknown to Andrew, when he was starting out, his now signature 'soak stain' technique had its origins with abstract painters such as Jackson Pollok, Helen Frankenthaler and Moris Louis. Over an artistic career spanning nearly fifty years, Andrew has added a richer dimension to this generally imprecise technique, transforming it into the layers of subtle composition and exquisitely detailed work that we see today.
Art has always been a means of expression for Andrew. producing his first work at 5, winning a newspaper competition at around 7 and selling his first piece or work at 14. After leaving school without qualifications in the mid 70's his talent meant he always earned money from his art, whether it was selling his work; painting backdrops for theatre at Bristol Old Vic; scenic work for the BBC on shows like Blot on the Landscape and Robin of Sherwood; or on the streets. At one point in the 1980's four buildings on Bristol’s (then popular punk scene Park Street) were canvases for his work including Zoo and Trax. Always a prolific artist he was constantly creating new work. In the early days he used untreated canvas, developing techniques using curtain linings stretched over hand-made frames and household paints just to get he work out there.
During the 80's he produced 100’s of paintings often selling them very cheaply to fund his drug habit at the time. Shunned by traditional fine art galleries in 1987 he created a spectacular exhibition at Ashton Court Mansion attracting over a 1,000 visitors which was covered by local media. Those were the heady times which were fueled, and then broken for a time, by addiction. In 1990 he took himself to Greece to escape ‘the scene’ for a couple of weeks and ended up staying nearly 20 years.
Greece, for him, was "a mind rehab". He says "It enhanced my work and gave me a far better perspective on the human race." In Greece he continued to hone his craft both on canvas and on walls. By the time he left most of the streets in lower Pathos in the restaurants, bars and discos were external and internal canvases of his work. "What dawned on me on Greece that I should do something with my art, say something. That is foremost with me. An artist should look at, try to understand and portray what he sees hopefully for the better, and before he dies be able to say something – that is important."
He returned to his beloved Bristol just over ten years ago. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post Andrew described his homecoming as like “stripping the carcass clean.” It gave him a new perspective for this next chapter of his work. “All of my work has to talk now, otherwise I can’t produce it”. His recent works are heavily influenced by current affairs: "I think it became very important to me when Donald Trump got into power and then Theresa May and the Brexit vote. People like me started thinking we can’t go on like this. I don’t want to put any political view point across but what I do want to do is to make sure that the planet is as safe as possible for our grandchildren whilst we are in this particular situation globally. Some people seem bent on destroying not only everything on the planet but also everybody. So my work has taken that swerve to preserving what we can."
He is currently working on a new exhibition which continues to develop these themes and will powerfully highlight how he sees the global dichotomy of "how the world is at a fork in the road, which could either end with the survival of a smaller, wealthier population or sharing of the planet’s wealth and resources".
Through the eyes of an Ostrich - October 2017
Of this collection Andrew says: 'An Ostrich has it’s head buried in the sand, worse than that it’s got Ray-Bans on. This exhibition is about what I see things happening around and people just ignoring it, or not being aware of it, or being aware of it but choosing not to do anything about it but just carrying on with their lives. This will cause us massive problems if we don’t start looking and understanding the environmental impact we are having for our children and our children’s children. People have got to start waking up.'
20/50 Vision: Tomorrow's Habitat - May 2017
The works in Andrew's 20/50 Vision: Tomorrow's Habitat collection challenge our perception of how we will grow food and humans, our effect on the planet and how we will be fairing economically and operating socially by 2050. Beautiful soak stained canvasses with hard hitting themes and being Burns Colwill there is a fair amount of dark humour thrown in too. Add his affordable A3 giclee prints signed by the artist to your art collection.
More about Andy
April 2018 Radio interview Backchat BCFM - to listen to the interview scroll down to 1 April 2018 and the interview is from 14.09 mins into the show
Andrew's 2017 Body of work
Examples of murals and commissions over recent years