INTERVIEWED BY Malibongwe Tyilo
Born in 1982 in Oranjemund, in the south west of Namibia, Andrew Sutherland moved to England with his family at the age of 11, then to Cape Town at 16, where he eventually graduated from the Ruth Prowse School of Art in 2004.
Since then he has worked as an illustrator and a fine artist, showing with Cape Town-based gallery Salon Ninety One. It was his dreamy painted scenes that first caught our attention, so we decided it was time to find out a little more.
How have your travels affected your artistic output?
Travelling puts you out there and opens you up to a wealth of inspiration through interactions with different cultures and environments. I believe that getting out of your comfort zone is very important to creative growth – it stimulates your senses and gives you new perspectives. I’ve watched my work change dramatically over the years, and that can mainly be contributed to travelling. After living in Taiwan for a spell, I watched how the lush environments that surrounded me began making more of an appearance in my work. I have since developed a strong interest in jungles and dense foliage and it has become a distinct feature in my paintings. Even if you can’t cross oceans, a small getaway from your regular space can give you a nice burst of inspiration.
Illustrators and fine artists are often put into separate boxes. You’ve managed to straddle both worlds. How have you made that work for yourself?
I guess I have been lucky in that I have had opportunities to do both illustration and fine art throughout my creative career. At times I have focused on one area more than the other, but generally I think I have managed them relatively well. I see the two as different disciplines that require a different approach, but they are both gratifying, and I will happily do both for as long as I can. At the moment I am leaning more towards fine art, as I find it far more liberating than illustration. I am not tied down by a client’s needs and I can spend more time experimenting and producing what I want rather than what someone else wants. I do feel that there is an area of overlapping between the two disciplines, and this can make for really interesting work.
There is quite a dreamy quality to some of your work, and sometimes a bit of humour. What are some of the themes that inspire you?
Currently my main sources of inspiration are the great outdoors, exploration and discovery. These themes have been with me for a long time, but I really feel that they have flourished as of late. The dreamy element in my work is inspired from that state of being overwhelmed by the natural world – a mysterious place filled with strange and wonderful things. There’s a magic there that you can’t deny and I aim to capture that. The humorous part that occasionally pops up in my work is more based around humans and our interactions with things – I love creating a narrative, even if it’s very subtle. This is where the illustrator in me comes out.
The local contemporary art scene has become quite buzzy at the moment, with new artists popping up all the time. How do you set yourself apart?
I think the only way to set yourself apart from others is to be true to what you do. Be honest with yourself and your work and that honesty will shine through. I try to keep focused on my qualities as an artist and how to keep developing them.
Who are three of your favourite artists?
At the moment I am loving the work of Andrew Hem, Olaf Hajek and Wendelin Wohlgemuth.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working towards a few shows this year. There are a few things in the pipeline and I am currently nailing down some dates. Watch this space!
Explore new work by Andrew Sutherland at the Paper Is You III group exhibition at Salon Ninety One until 21 May 2016. Details here.