20 July 2016

Grand Exposure

Andrew J. Steel is a 28 year old artist with grand ambitions.


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World domination is his aim, or at least to create New Zealand’s official biggest public artwork and to become the country’s most prolific artist along the way.

Maybe he’s done it already. He’s not sure. But you can’t live in Auckland and not be confronted by his growing outdoor gallery of striking large-scale works, many of which feature his humorous visual puns and signature quirky upright dogs. Whether sitting, walking, talking, drinking or fighting – like Andrew, they’re popping up everywhere, in all the best public and private spaces.

“The dog is a recurring symbol. He has my personality. I like animals and I like to personify them.”

“He’s always doing something and in some ways, he’s just like me – an artist with a travelling lifestyle, full of remarkable experiences. Every project has something remarkable about it. And it gives me the ability to travel.” For Andrew not only makes his mark on public spaces in Auckland and others cities like Wellington, New Plymouth, Melbourne and Sydney, he also creates art inside beautiful homes in places like Waiheke Island and Akaroa.

“I’m lucky I suppose. People don’t need art. They want it. I’m not the builder or the plumber. They want me there, that’s the difference. That’s a real privilege.”

A private commission by Andrew J Steel

A private commission by Andrew J Steel

Andrew likes to believe he’s adding value to our public spaces. “I often say, you are your environment and what you’re surrounded by. If you have a positive space with art and books around you, it makes life more meaningful. The bigger picture is adding value to the world. You can’t change it massively but you can make a difference to the day to day.”

Sometimes his work takes on a political commentary. He once waded into the shark-fin debate and there have been other issues he takes on.  But mostly his art represents things going on in the immediate context. Every space is different – physically, socially and culturally. What’s right for Auckland’s K Road might not work in South Auckland.

Large scale. Photo by Brendan Kittolow

Large scale. Photo by Brendan Kittolow

He’s been making a difference to the city streets since he was about 14. Growing up in New Plymouth, there wasn’t much to do unless you were into rugby or you surfed. As a kid, he started sneaking around at night painting things he shouldn’t have been. Several years later, he headed to Victoria University to complete a science degree, and led a double life spray painting on Wellington’s streets at night.

It was so much fun that when he finally managed to score a science job as an analyst, he didn’t last long. One month into it, those walls were calling. He had always been motivated and ambitious and discovered if you are passionate about whatever you do, persistence and hard work eventually pay off. His mural art was soon in hot demand, not just in New Zealand but scattered throughout Australia and Asia. People were paying for what was once regarded as graffiti.

For 10 years Andrew successfully collaborated with a mate, but their art went in different directions so they parted ways.  That was a year ago now. Since then Andrew has been heavily booked. He works seven days a week for months on end. And he moved from outside buildings to interiors as well. “I noticed a lack of quality interior stuff happening. A lot of people were doing exterior murals inside so I came up with a way of presenting a similar style of mine but for an inside environment.

Allpress by Andrew J Steel.

Allpress by Andrew J Steel.

Work in progress 4. Photo by Matt Queree

Work in progress 4. Photo by Matt Queree

“I’m lucky I don’t have to compromise my style and aesthetic. But I also make sure my work is for them and about them – like my object-based work, my hieroglyphics.”

“Now 40 to 50% of my time I get these projects where I paint inside. I work for some of New Zealand’s best brands and forward thinking homeowners – people interested in arts and design. I do a lot of site specific installations purely tailored to someone’s own space."

One of Andrew’s early challenges was how to market his work to inform and educate without resorting to the traditional art agent channel, which robs him both of his relationship to the buyer and of a large cut of the payment. So he uses social media extensively. “It’s always been a big part of what I do.” And while he may not directly hit the wealthy decision makers he needs to influence, when they’re in the market for an artist, their sons and daughters conveniently mention his name.

Interior for Run the Red, Photo by Blake Dunlop.

Interior for Run the Red, Photo by Blake Dunlop.

On top of that, he releases a piece of his original work for sale by silent auction on his website every month.  Each time, he tries a different medium. One month a ceramic vase; another month, cotton canvas, then another on raw ply box board. It’s a way of creating further demand and transitioning to the world of fine art.

His latest work, on the walls of a new shared restaurant space, can soon be seen in a new development being orchestrated along Auckland’s K Road.  When it’s about a week from completion, Andrew will start painting. Using specialist Japanese ink markers, he works quickly and decisively. Even enormous works, like the massive Karma Sutra 11 that popped up in a carpark space on K Road, didn’t take longer than a weekend.

K Road Kama Sutra by Andrew J Steel.

K Road Kama Sutra by Andrew J Steel.

Take a look around. Andrew is on a mission. His stunning visual wit is everywhere as he steadily works his way towards his goal - New Zealand’s most prolific artist – if not the creator of the biggest artwork.

 http://andrewjsteel.com/

 

 

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