Artist Andrew Churchill embarks on first of four summer shows
Andrew, a familiar face at Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery where he worked for a number of years, will be showing his work at The Mill Studio, Ford Lane, Arundel, BN18 0EF from July 24-August 8, Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm.
“I studied fine art at college in Bath in 1995-98 and fully intended to continue an art practice. I think what you don’t realise when you are at college is just how lucky you are to have access to a studio, surrounded by a group of fellow artists and experienced tutors around to guide you. When that all disappears, it’s really hard to keep it going!
“I was really fortunate to get a position with Pallant House Gallery in 2000, right in the middle of the time when they were trying to get planning position for the new wing. I did try and keep a practice going on days off but I eventually decided I’d swap making art for working in art galleries. It seemed like a pretty fair deal back then! I suppose I overlooked that there was a lot of creativity in the kind of work I was doing day to day. Eventually and inevitably my work took me away from that, and I was more likely to be looking at a spreadsheet than a colour chart! A clay workshop at Watts Gallery where I worked after Pallant was a moment when something clicked and I realised how much I missed making things. In 2014 I came back to Pallant and whilst it was lovely to be back amongst the extraordinary collection, I felt the calling of my own art even more. I started attending a life drawing session at Piers Ottey’s The Mill Studio (the venue for my big exhibition this summer) and in March 2016 I took the plunge and bought oil paints.
“I did my first self-portrait March 30 2016. It took 45 minutes and it was exhilarating to be painting. Visual decisions are unlike any other. They can be really easy or really tough. And in the end, it’s such a weird activity, painting a likeness of a nose in sticky oil with pigment in it! But it was most definitely what I felt I should be doing.
“I worked very hard, quite literally all hours, often being in the studio at 4.30 in the morning. I got great advice from experienced painters, the best of which was just to keep painting. There is no other sure fire way to get better. So I put in the hours. 2018 I held a little exhibition at home for a few days and that was the first time I’d shown my work in any real sense. When the pandemic hit in 2020 I was initially off work unwell. I was then furloughed. My studio is at the end of my garden so I was luckier than many artists who got locked out of their studios in lockdown. So I worked and worked and worked, the only way to get better!
“When at the end of 2020 I was made redundant I became even more focussed on my painting, getting more ambitious with the scale and subject matter. I ordered three huge canvasses (6x6ft and 6x9ft) and began paintings of my family based on quick snap photos taken the last time my whole family had been together. Missing seeing them during lockdown, I found myself chatting to them as I painted, exploring their characters through their appearance and how they sat. It was very good for me! Completing the really big paintings told me I had to exhibit them, or they’d just be sat under a sheet in the studio. Piers Ottey was on board with the idea of having a show of my work in his space. I’ve always wanted a book of my painting so I relearnt my design skills and prepared a hardback book which covers the four exhibitions of my work this summer. I have my big show at The Mill, postcard paintings at The Victoria Institute in Arundel, a group of six paintings made specially for a bar in Deptford (Winemakers) and I have self-portraits on show at McCully & Crane in Rye!"