“Beautiful But Harsh” – Seven Minutes With Local Artist Andy Dixon

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by Grady Mitchell | If artists like Renoir and Matisse had been around in the ’60s instead of the 19th century, their work probably would have looked something like Andy Dixon’s. The Vancouver artist’s images are bold and brash, a vibrant swirl of psychedelic tones depicting scenes of aristocratic luxury and leisure, elegant portraits, serene still lives and landscapes. In one image, tuxedoed gentlemen climb a grand staircase. In another, those same men waltz with equally glamorous women in a ballroom. Other paintings show elaborate bouquets in vases, super-saturated images of animals in their habitats, and sensual nudes. While the subject matter varies, the palette and approach is remarkably consistent.

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Although much of his work today depicts high society, Andy’s interest in painting sprouted during his days in punk music. “Punk to me was more about the impulse of expression than technical prowess,” he says. “That was the idea: anyone can do this.” He applies that DIY mindset in the rough-hewn techniques he uses. His strokes are blunt and abrupt, his tones blocky rather than blended. “I like the humanity of a drawn line. I could use a ruler for the line that becomes the horizon, but I don’t.” His paintings bear the telltale imprecision of a human hand, lending each one an organic authenticity.

Like any self-respecting punk musician, Andy discovers his influences and style as he works. “I like to believe that I’m making it up as I go along, in the same way I did with music.” That intuitive approach has brought some unconventional tools to his kit, such as house paint and crayons. Like the static-shrouded amps of a fledgling band, these tools and techniques have shaped Andy’s style, which he describes as “beautiful but harsh.”

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That style is still evolving today. At first, Andy honed his craft making gig posters, album art and merchandise for bands. His paintings started out as abstract works, but an encounter with one image changed that. It was Cy Twombly’s The Italians, which hangs at the MOMA in New York. Ironically, The Italians is an abstract work. But faced with what a master artist could achieve with lines and shapes, Andy decided to move into figurative work. “I thought I could say more if there was subject matter,” he says. He’s put abstract work on the back burner, choosing to take it up again once he feels he’s done all he can, er…figuratively.

When it comes to the ritzy content of that work, Andy says it’s neither a celebration nor a condemnation. “There’s no ire or judgement or romanticism. They just are; they’re just there.” More than any political statement, he’s interested in the dichotomy of applying his harsh, loose techniques to the subject matter of the old masters: still lives of vases, vignettes of reclining nudes and aristocracy at play. In the process, he’s on the path to becoming a master himself.

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To see more of Andy’s work, visit his website, www.andydixon.net.

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