Converge 2016 opens today, 29 January 2016.
Andrew Mackenzie is one of three invited artists, along with Steven MacIver and Sam Johnson, exhibiting at Converge 2016 Visual Arts Scotland.
Andrew MacKenzie created three large-scale drawing for the exhibition. The drawings, made with many layers of pastel and gouache on paper, are based on drawings made of an abandoned service station and are 150x112cm. One of his drawings won the Open Eye Gallery Award.
Andrew MacKenzie’s work is about landscape, but that landscape is muted and monochromatic. The bright part of the work, that stands out visually, is the line drawing hovering over the landscape that appears to be schematics or architectural plans. While very little of the surface area of the work is actually covered up by these few lines the affect is that the lines are much more visible than the landscape. The bright colour, straight lines and hard edges make you pay attention to the lines and almost miss the landscape, which becomes a sort of shadowy pattern. After you spend some time looking you can create more of a balance between the two and I found myself learning to shift my focus back and forth. Sometimes the lines emphasise part of the landscape, sometimes they add a missing piece and they often include some part of nature brought forward from the background drawing.
I asked Andrew a few questions:
Julie: The drawings are soft-edged monochromatic silhouettes with bright, line drawing schematics hovering over the top. I imagine the work looks quite different in the flesh compared to the on-line images. On-line they look like lens-based work with digital layers. Is that something that you are interested in?
Andrew Mackenzie: They do look different in the flesh – you can see the rich surface, and the many layers of hand-drawn lines and trees which I hope draw the viewer in. I want them to create some impact from afar, but also encourage closer inspection. They look more “perfect” in the images than they are in the flesh. They are worked out in my head and drawn straight onto the surface, using photographs as a starting point, but never slavishly copying the images; drawing and redrawing the subject over and over in slightly displaced layers. The diagramatic quality of the service station, reminiscent of a blueprint, is a device where I can suggest a structure while retaining it’s transparency. The nature of the line is very important. Hand-drawn lines are fallible, flickering, labour intensive. I never use digital software to draw.
Julie: These artworks are layers of soft pastel and gouache paint. I would call them paintings but you call your work drawings. What makes them drawings to you?
Andrew Mackenzie: Well, the difference between drawings and paintings is interesting. I would say that in my paintings, which are oil paint on panel, there is a lot of drawing. Similarly, in these drawings there is a lot of painting. I find it hard to differentiate, but I call these “drawings” because they are on paper, and use some dry materials (soft pastel) to create the surface, as opposed to paint. The way I use the gouache to create the lines and so on is basically the same as how I’d use oil paint in the paintings.
Julie: Why did you choose to work in these materials? Is it a departure for you?
Andrew Mackenzie: The scale is certainly a new thing. I began experimenting with pastel and gouache several years ago on a small scale, as a way of working out ideas quickly for paintings. The oil paintings can sometimes take up to a year to complete, and the small drawings/studies were much faster. I found that I could create interesting surfaces with layered pastel fixed with Lascaux Fixative, without them looking like pastel drawings. For Converge, there was a desire to make something new, to push the work into a new area, and I wanted to see if I could pull it off on a larger scale.
Julie: Why did you choose to draw a service station for this series of work?
Andrew Mackenzie: I had driven past this disused service station several times in 2014 on my way in and out of Edinburgh. It caught my eye because of it’s abandoned state, which somehow struck a chord with me. Visually it ticked all the boxes, but more than that it seemed to suggest the current challenges facing the oil industry, perhaps especially relevant in post-referendum Scotland, and our dependence on fossil fuels. There is something I find appealing generally about abandoned industrial buildings, and I have tried to reconnect the end of this particular anonymous building’s life with the original promise of the new, in the form of a diagram. I have imagined how nature might grow to fill the spaces once occupied by humans. The final layer of trees are the same artificial orange as the buildings – “nature” does not care whether something is man-made or natural.
As James Bridle says in his blog on hauntology: “[It] is like encountering a revenant – a return in figurative form of a glimpse of a future that never was, a visionary dream that was envisioned once but which slipped out of collective memory.”
Mackenzie graduated with an MFA from Edinburgh College of Art in 1993. He is represented by Sarah Myerscough Gallery. Converge 2016 continues at the Scottish National Gallery Academy Building in Edinburgh (EH2 2EL) until 20th February 2016.
You can read more in this article by Edinburgh College of Art.
The image at the top is:
‘Service Station Drawing 1’
soft pastel, Lascaux fixative and gouache on paper