''Not being told what something is supposed to mean or what it doesn't mean, that's really important to me.''

So, Andrew, you come into a gallery where you are about to set up a show. What happens next?

I work with ideas beforehand and let them form naturally instead of having the whole show preconceived or too planned out. A lot of my work is based on repetition of imagery. I use iconic images and different images in a different context all the time. This depends upon what the space is like or what happens. When I have ideas that I’m working with, often the starting theme is very similar and with time it slowly starts to change.

Right now my work is basically about war, especially coming from the US, as well as about environmental degradation and global warming. A lot of my work also deals with chaos, that is with how much chaos there is in the world. I like the idea of trying to find calm or balance in all this chaos, of being educated and of being conscious of what’s going on.

I’m living in the US and I want to be aware of what is happening with politics and to be able to take all that into my work. I focus on what I can do as a person and I’m trying to make a difference in this world instead of just knowing all the defeating and hopeless stuff.At the same time, I still want to be grounded and have a sort of spiritual balance. So for me that is a reason to live my life and to be a positive person by contributing things to society and the world. Although this might seem utopian and naïve, for me it’s no option to give up hope and I’m trying to incorporate this feeling into my work.


What do you want your audience to get out of your images?

For me they are less a definitive work of art than a caption of a general vibe that any viewer can get. It doesn’t matter on how educated they are or how much they know about art or how much they know about politics or what they know about anything.

A little kid looks at it and probably gets another thing from it. Another thing is that I’m going away from being too descriptive as well. I don’t  necessarily like the idea of a viewer looking at art or anything for that matter, with only one preconceived notion that they can possibly get. That’s alienating to everybody. Not being told what something is supposed to mean or what it doesn’t mean, that’s really important to me.

Some of the new work like the drawings, that will be on show here at MAMA are really really chaotic, with a multitude of layers on them and the idea with those works is a simple concept: everywhere is chaos, covering things up. For my art that means: In order to actually see the picture you have to look through all the layers covering it up. It’s a concept of life in general. You have to see through the many layers, you have to see through all the chaos or bullshit to actually get the real picture or decide for yourself what that real picture is.

I like the idea of challenging the viewer: making him deal with all the stuff going on, having him trying to figure out what is going on or let him see the picture that is actually going on behind all of it.


What is your work about?

A lot of my work is based on present, contemporary issues. It is my contemporised version of 14th century German mapmaking and Persian and Indian miniatures. Persian and Indian miniatures were recording history and cultures and they recorded different wars that their cultures were fighting. In the case of German mapmaking, they were making maps to know how to conquer new frontiers. So by I’m still recording history, and I’m still recording war and chaos, but I definitely use different symbols that refer to today. The viewer knows I’m not depicting events from hundreds of years ago but that I’m talking about today.

It’s a cliché, but bad things are repeating themselves. I see relevance in history repeating itself.

With technology everything is fluctuating ahead and is like an unstoppable force, nature and man are out of control. For me it’s a reference to the uncontrollable power of things. That’s why I paint certain things like hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes and tide waves.

These are common themes in my works, I paint those things as an allusion to the power we can’t control. I’ve been toying with depicting ideas of people worshipping, that real power should be respected and worshipped. I’ve also been painting chaotic energy fields. They appear over pictures and other reference as the pollution that’s in the air and that we even can’t see. Those fields are a literal representation of all these dangerous electrical waves that are flowing around that we can’t see. Imagine a contemporary context of a beautiful landscape with a few telephone poles and then there is a lot of energy everywhere that is invisible but still is ruining the landscape. I use this as my way to tell a different tale.


What are you going to make for MAMA?

A couple of big drawings, not necessarily site-specific, I haven’t decided in advance what to do here in the gallery. It will probably be more easy going. Displaying more political work in a public space would be irresponsible. In public space you have to work with the environment and make a connection with the community.

In the gallery I will do a piece with eyeballs. Iseeeyeballs as a metaphor for being watched or surveyed whether you’re online or on the street. I heard that Rotterdam is one of the cities with the mostsurveillance cameras in the world, so the fact of being watched is kind of pertinent here.


Beside the drawings in the first room, I will make 3D pyramids sculptures that melt into a wall painting. Pyramids with a scale above it. The pyramid is also a symbol for American economics. It’s like a sound structure that is built in Egypt and lasted for hundreds of years. Our existence is based on the same structure. By doing this installation, I’m juxtaposing the sound structure of a building with an economic system.

The pyramid as a metaphor for an economic system which favours few while many are at the bottom carrying the weight. Another basic reference to pyramids is that there is one pictured on the back of a one dollar bill, with an eyeball hovering above it. An unfinished pyramid has been used because a democratic society is a work in progress and never complete and that’s funny. It brings me to question what is a democracy? Just vocalising it to the world, our country is walking into other countries that have existed for hundreds of years on their own, and the US forces to introduce a new political system upon them. I don’t see the democratic system working very well in my own country. We’re waltzing into other countries and push our ways upon them and to the entire world.

Here again I like to present something interesting to look at, fun for viewers to look at. They can get many other things from it, not only seriousness. A lot of it comes out of cartoons or comic book references , for me it’s interesting to look at and also fun to look at for young children as well. I like the idea, whether subconsciously or not, to make young children start thinking about things they wouldn’t think about. Like: Why are the limbs of this tree cut of? As a kid you’re going to think about it in a different way, as an adult you automatically think of a reference like cutting down trees. Adults have probably already formed an opinion on what it is about and whether it’s a bad or a good thing and children have not yet solidified their opinion of the world.



So your narratives are easier to read for kids?

In some sense yes. I don’t like to present politics or my ideals to people in a punching-you-in-the-face sort of way. What I really don’t like in artworks is when they become over-political. It’s like preaching to the choir, you’re talking to people that already agree with you and so you’re eliminating the possibility of someone who doesn’t agree with you maybe thinking about and potentially changing their mind. A lot of my work stays in a subjective middle ground. Where there are different political ideas present but they are not slamming you in the face. I feel that with artwork you have the opportunity to reach audiences that might not agree with what they see and they can potentially think about it. All this is in an ideal world sense of things. Another thing is also just to present art in another way. Maybe it could potentially inspire someone to want to do it as well. Some art becomes so overly intelligent, and alienating to the viewers, that it doesn’t inspire a viewer or somebody to be creative themselves. For me, that’s of importance and would be my success in making art, inspire others to make some art or be creative.

Linked exhibition:
Chaotic Balance on Well Built Structures 

Edited by:
Constanze Friedrichs

Photos by:
Lotte Stekelenburg


Website by HOAX Amsterdam