Tuesday 15 April 2014

Interview with Andrew Baines

Andrew Baines describes himself as 'a quasi-surrealist painter and an installation artist.' He was born in the United Kingdom, then migrated to Australia with his parents shortly after, and now lives in Adelaide.
    Andrew has gathered people aged in their 70s, 80s and 90s on the beach in order to portray their lives, roles and 'sea of knowledge,' in a bid to challenge the stereotypes of ageing. He has arranged lines of people sitting on toilets, led by politician Amanda Vanstone, to highlight the need for public toilets at Henley Beach; he has placed other politicians, led by Alexander Downer, in red doorways on a beach; he has
lined up two dozen religious leaders of various faiths holding hands along the water’s edge, including both the Anglican and Catholic Archbishops; and he has collaborated with the West Australian Symphony orchestra to play a symphony in the sea at Cottesloe beach.
    Andrew is currently working on moving his art into the realm of film. ________________________________________________________________________

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Colchester, Essex, and grew up at Grange in South Australia (by the beach).

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

My Dad was a semi-professional soccer player and electrician. He taught me all about being a competitor and a winner! My Mum was a housewife, who had a great affinity for the arts/culture via painting, reading, scrabble and music. Mum showed me a more refined life. I had two brothers, six years younger. There was too big a gap, so I didn’t quite relate, but they were good for taking photos of in dangerous and surreal situations.

Where did you go to school?

Grange Primary and Seaton High School.

When did you first take an interest in art?

From the word go! My Mum put pencils and paper in front of me as soon as I could sit up.

What was your first paying job as an artist?

Aged ten, I was cartoonist for the Western Suburbs Schools Soccer Newsletter. Two dollars a cartoon. There was money to be made from art! Due to the credibility of this, I was offered the profile job as artist for the Grange Primary Newsletter. A position of much acclaim and revered by my peers but, unfortunately, no pay.

What was harder: arranging for cows to stand around in the sea, lining up politicians sitting on toilets, or organising a symphony orchestra to play while ankle-deep in the ocean?

Putting cows in the sea was, by far—logistically and bureaucratically, the most difficult. Politicians are easy. Most of them will do almost anything for publicity. Orchestral musicians may look pompous up on stage, but in real life they’re crazy!
    Cows had to be put on a strict water acclimatisation regime for a couple of months before the event. Well, that’s what the dairy farmers told me. Much red tape had to be cut through to put a herd of cows on a public beach. We also had to employ two cow paddy cleaner-uppers. Cows are shitting machines!
    I had the problem of hundreds of onlookers wanting to get happy snaps of cows in the sea. No matter what I said, they wouldn’t get out of the picture. Also, cows have an unnerving habit of kicking backwards and thrusting their big heads forward. I learnt from experience to come in from the side.

You almost set art aside for soccer, yet soccer doesn’t appear to be a major influence on your work. Do you retain a sense of conflict there? Do you have any plans for a soccer-themed exhibition?

No plans for the present. My soccer and my art poles apart. When I played soccer it was all about white line fever, youth, adrenaline and passion. I played like I was at war and I hated being beaten. In my art, there is no competition, it’s all about my philosophy of life, stopping to contemplate my place in the big picture, almost holistic and even spiritual. My art puts me in a good place, soccer frustrated me.

In one place you talked about art “bringing out an inner naivety.” That’s something budding screenwriters struggle with. Instead of allowing their own interests to emerge naively, they write reworked versions of Pulp Fiction or Friday the 13th. Do you have any advice on how one goes about releasing the inner child?

I believe, if you cut the metaphorical umbilical cord from your family, friends and peers and dismiss their beliefs and opinions, you can come close to listening to your inner psyche. Your true individuality is waiting to be unearthed. I use the beach on dawn as a meditational vehicle to help me come up with my own ideas and small epiphanies. I think it’s all about letting go of all our trained beliefs. The ideas are very raw, but sometimes quite unique, and over a period of time you gain continuity and an insight into your true self. You know when you’re becoming a true individual because the general public thinks you are on the edge or eccentric. I like that!

Do people often comment about similarities between your work and Pink Floyd album covers?

Yes. A few years back, I was in Sydney and I stumbled across a book titled Taken by Storm. It was the art work for Pink Floyd covers and many more bands, by photographer Storm Thorgerson. I could see similarities in my thinking.
    The problem with any of the arts is that critics try to put your work into a category, or compare you to another artist. I suppose that’s just how the human mind works; everything as to have a place, surrealism, post modernism, etc. At the end of the day, we’re all influenced by similar events and circumstance no matter the time or place. If you come up with an idea, go online. There’s a good chance you will find something similar on the other side of the world.

You have expressed a desire to direct surrealist short films. What prompted that interest?

I’m compelled to evolve and take my ideas to a bigger stage, that’s why I create surreal installations, to take my concepts off the canvas, to give them life. I see film as 2D art on steroids. If film wants you to cry, you cry, if film wants you to laugh, you laugh. It’s ability to toy with your emotions is overwhelming. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to venture into this medium. I want to see if my ideas can come to life. My painting concepts are very successful; I feel strongly that they will make the leap to film with some success. 

What are three things you wish someone had told you about making a living from art when you were starting out?

That’s sounds like a simple question... The sooner you start the journey, the sooner you will discover the answers.
    My success has come via life’s milestones. When I was young I painted the beach. I had success only due to the fact people related to the subject. Now when I paint, I create concepts that deal with issues like the GFC, work/life balance, escapism, existentialism. Issues I knew nothing about as a youngster. Being true to yourself and painting what you know and feel is a good start. It’s easy to have moderate success via copying someone else's formula. You will never make the art books though.
    The only thing I know for a fact is: Don't paint for money, paint for yourself. If money’s meant to come, it will. If not...?

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?
King Kong (1933)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Easy Rider (1969)
Seven Samurai (1954)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
Manhattan (1979)
Midnight in Paris (2011)
From Russia with Love (1963)
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Salvador Dali: "I see—a rhinoceros."  Midnight in Paris (2011)

What’s next for Andrew Baines?

Next, I will collaborate with director Carlo Petraccaro to produce my first short film, Escape of the Corporate Battery Hens. I wrote the story, Carlo helped me turn it into a script. It will be introduced via a ten minute documentary about the philosophy of my art and background. All I have is ideas, I have minimal knowledge of film. Carlo will mentor me along this journey. I can't wait to see it come together. I have so many surreal ideas to add layers to the film. I want it to be like a serious Monty Python film, one that can be appreciated on many levels, by many ages. I already believe in this project; I know it will be good! But, of course, Yin and Yang have raised their head. All the excitement has been crushed by trying to raise finance. I’ve never had to ask for money before. Already I’m scared...


A black and white herd of Australian dairy cows have been lead to a beach in the name of art. The animals are part of an unique work of art created by surrealist artist Andrew Baines. (Oct. 24, 2013)

    Website    Wikipedia


Unknown said...

Andrew Baines seems to move things to the beach to make people take a fresh look at them. It is exciting to see his energy - getting those dairy farmers in beautifully pressed black shirts and bowler hats with their precious cows all the way to the beach, and then having ignorant passersby spoil the shot - good on him for his huge effort.

Andrew has cogent comments about creativity which delight, and has clearly thought deeply about his art. US listeners might have trouble understanding his strong Aussie accent, it took me a minute to tune in, myself.

Good luck with the movie. I think it is going to take all of Andrew's impressive drive to create it.

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