Andrew Grassie took us on a tour of his practice, with some interesting detours into the role of rules and strategies for painting.
When he was at the RCA, he described himself as ‘untutorable’ because he couldn’t and didn’t work in only one style. At that time, a ‘signature style’ was seen as the way to a marketable product. When he left college, he found himself in the same dilemma and worked through different approaches.
He began to repaint his own paintings, sometimes producing multiples which were shown as groups. In one show, his work was bought by Charles Saatchi. But then, having found a ‘marketable product’, he stopped doing them.
The multiples did, however, provide him with a way of making work without having to invent something new. Grassy referred to Sol LeWitt’s rules for drawings, and he was clearly in search of his own rules for making work. He then embarked on an approach which he has developed ever since: taking photos of a space, making paintings from the photos and then hanging the paintings in the space, usually where the camera was pointing. Curators began to invite him to extend this to making paintings of shows, and then adding his paintings to the show.
He created a show borrowing works from other artists and galleries and making paintings of them. Although they weren’t actually displayed together in one space at any one time, his paintings were a ‘virtual exhibition’ of those works. In Tate Britain, he made paintings from photographs of works on display and they were then hung with a plan showing the sight line of the photos he took. He described it as
more like a still life than a curated show.
This last image is of show in Vancouver, with paintings of art in warehouses, and at fabricators and in art factories. The point of making these paintings was to question whether people need to see the actual works of art at all; and what you are looking at when you look at a sculpture made by technicians. But the small size of his paintings – they are often only postcard-sized – also hints at questions of the value of work.
In questions after the lecture, about what would happen if he didn’t have rules and about the evident role skill played in his work. Grassie said he was interested in skill and beauty but was anxious that these are now taboo. Anxiety also seemed to drive his ‘working within the rules’. The rules could be seen as a way of managing or displacing the anxiety to allow him to get on with working.