Andrew James Collins
Influenced by geology and the physical history of place, artist Andrew James Collins currently is based primarily in rural County Cork, Ireland. Originally from a small island off the coast of Rhode Island, he has been inspired by his natural surroundings since childhood, and employs materials like clay, paper, and paint to great minimal, earthy compositions.
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YS: Tell me a bit about yourself! You graduated from RISD and split your time between the US and Ireland. What is that like?
AC: I am from a small island called Block Island. It is 12 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island and is where I met my now wife the year I graduated RISD. After meeting we spent a number of years traveling between the US, UK, and Ireland (she is Irish). After our transient stage we moved to NYC and lived there for about three years. We were leaving NYC to move to London, when during the few months in transition my wife became pregnant. We decided that perhaps a large city was not the place we wanted to raise a child. This is what prompted the move to Ireland. We wanted to set up a base here, you know, a place from which we could grow roots and branches from.
That is what we have been up to for the past few years, we bought a farm in rural West Cork near the beach to renovate and have an ongoing project, it is kind of an evolution I guess. I suppose it is like everything else in that it has its great joys and its challenges, we are lucky enough to be able to spend a good bit of time in the US every year, as well as be within a stones throw to all of Europe. To us it seemed like a great center point, especially in that we are both involved in creative fields, but I can definitely start to feel a bit removed from the scene.
I miss the chaos and opportunity of large cities, but enjoy the space to think and create that is afforded by the rural setting I live in. I think it is about finding balance and perspective, and that is what we are attempting in setting up base in Ireland, finding a jump off point from which we can have the best of all worlds.
Can you explain a bit about your practice? What are you interested in?
My practice is all about experimentation and this pulling together of things and materials. I am really interested in geology, it is really a physical manifestation of time and history. My surroundings, both in West Cork and Block Island provide really unique and beautiful geological histories to work from. I am also really interested in “primitive” cultures and native peoples, their working and living methods and ideologies that formed these modes. I have recently become obsessed with pottery, especially African pottery, it is so incredible in so many ways. It embodies many aspects I am interested in surrounding the making of art. I am slowly working these ideas into my new work, and constantly thinking about these things. I am doing a lot of experimentation at present.
What is your process like? How do you get started on a piece?
Most of my pieces begin with something unintentional, a separate process or something kicking around the studio. I have been making a lot of my own raw materials since setting up my studio in Ireland and having the space to do so, paper, clay, inks, pigments, paints. Often these processes, the tools and materials used in the creation of these things, will provide moments or pieces that can be transformed into something else, or at least incorporated into something else. I suppose I work really tangentially and don’t really focus on beginning something, I think those moments sort of just happen for me and it’s about recognizing when that moment has happened.
What is your studio like? Any routines/rituals?
My studio is generally like a giant hovel, a terrible state, in truth. The large barn on the property was actually one of the reasons for purchasing, however, I have done nothing to convert it into a proper clean “studio” so it remains just a fabulous open space in which to make stuff. I am not a very tidy worker, I flit from one thing to the next moment to moment and I like to work on a fairly large scale, this all makes for a tremendous mess, but it also makes for a lot of history and depth in the work I think. It kind of builds up and up, the silt from the space and everything going on all at once makes for a great deal of interaction between all the stuff. I find that nothing is ever really finished until it leaves the studio.
The one thing I seem to consistently do is arrange things, I suppose that is kind of ritualistic. I like to lay stuff out and place things in proximity of each other. I think this helps me contextualize all these different things lying around and figure out visually how they are working together and how they may or may not be transformed into finished pieces
Who or what are some of your major influences?
As I said earlier geology is a huge influence, nature the great sculptor and all that. I regularly find things in the surrounding landscape and think “if I made something like that I would be very pleased.” I have been looking at a lot of Michael Heizer, Richard Long, land art kind of stuff for the last while. I always love giants like Richard Serra, Donald Judd, Anselm Keifer, Cy Twombley, James Turrell, Anish Kapoor. Recently, lots and lots of pottery, of course, as per my new obsession. I found a Japanese ceramic artist named Akiyama Yo who’s work is really amazing and I would love to see in person, also a really great British artist named Michael Dean is making some really interesting sculptural work.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
I have a pretty awful memory, so I’m not pulling anything right away. But I think probably something around the lines of “just keep making the work you feel is important” sounds about right, a “go with your gut” sort of thing.
What do you feel is the most fulfilling or exciting aspect of pursuing art?
I suppose it would have to be the infinite possibility of it, being in the moment while making is like a form of meditation, it allows for pure untethered potential, that anything can and will happen while you are engaged is very satisfying and fulfilling to me.
Looking at it another way, what do you find to be the most challenging or daunting part?
The most challenging part for me personally is the professional side of things, having to take time away from making things in order to do the drudgery is quite difficult. Not to say that this aspect does not have its own rewards, because it is all how you look at things, but I do find it tricky and rather daunting at times.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions/projects?
My wife and I are working on our first project together actually. After all this time together we have always helped each other with our own projects but never worked on one in tandem. It is a multidisciplinary theatre project incorporating sculpture, installation, sound, performance and dance that we will be workshopping in the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork in early November. We will then continue working on it and fine tuning everything through the remainder of this year and hopefully bring it around in 2017.
Find more at andrewjamescollins.com!
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