Interview with Artist Andrew Morrow

Mr. B and I have traveled to San Francisco so often that several people who work in various restaurants in the City think we actually live there!  Over time you establish relationships with people as a result of frequenting a place over and over again.

One of the places we always seem to frequent is the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco.  A huge part of my fascination with the hotel has always been the artwork.  The focal point of the lobby lounge includes two large scale paintings by Canadian artist Andrew Morrow.  The paintings, entitled “Love” and “War“, each measure 8 feet tall by 16 feet wide and are always a topic of conversation between Mr. B and I.   For example, (and I’m embarrassed to say) I thought there was a headless horseman in the “War” painting only to realize after many months that the rider is not headless but is instead looking down. It’s funny how each time I look at the paintings I see something new.

Several years ago Andrew Morrow was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me about his artwork.  I am thrilled to share the interview with you.  And by the way, he was quite amused about my  “headless horseman” reference.
Andrew Morrow in his Ottawa, Canada studio.

What inspires you as an artist?  Most of my inspiration comes from the art world or contemporary image culture. Painters are always in dialogue with their medium, but as a representational artist (someone who paints things that look like things), I’m also very interested in the images of our time. At the moment, I’m spending a lot time looking at pastoral ideals and sexually charged imagery. There is also a completely unforeseeable component to inspiration, this is the cliché of the lightning bolt striking from any place, at any time. This is a very real thing.

What was your inspiration for the “Love” and “War” paintings displayed in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco?  At the time, I’d been working on what I had called “War Paintings”. These were large-scale, apocalyptic battle scenes. I knew that James Robertson, the art consultant in charge of the hotel’s collection, wanted my work, but with a little less confrontation. James had decided the scale, 8’x16′, and the number of paintings, 2, but mostly, the rest was up to me. I came up with the idea of two paintings that could work in opposition with another, and thus “Love” and “War”. However, I’m not generally comfortable with binarisms as my universe is filled with grays, so conceptually, the paintings parallel, and overlap one another. “War”, presents one side of a battle, but with humour and beauty. “Love” depicts a swirling, Baroque, bacchanal, with small moments of conflict emerging from time to time. The paintings, exhibited across from one another, present compositional mirror images of one another. Because of the scale and prominence of the works and the targeted audience of the hotel, there was an exhaustive editorial process, leading to the paintings as they are today. I remember sending an initial sketch in, and getting notes back saying that there shouldn’t be any “rats”, or “dogs” in the work. The rat was actually a mongoose. The dog, was, well, a dog.

“Love” by Andrew Morrow in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco. A detailed view is below.
“Love”
“War”

What can we expect next from Andrew Morrow? Can you talk about any upcoming projects?  I’m currently working on a massive painting to be exhibited in a museum show here in my hometown of Ottawa. I’m also creating works for the upcoming Art Fair in Toronto. After this, I travel to Europe for 5 weeks on a research scholarship. Following that, I’m back home, working on a video project which will be screened in March of 2010. I’ve got more demand for my work that I can possibly keep up with these days. It would be nice to have a clone or two in the studio. Or at least an army of talented monkeys.

What are 5 things you couldn’t live without?  What can’t I live without? The logistician in me would say air, water, food, etc., but this doesn’t really say much does it? Family for sure, I’d be lost without my family. I also really like my bike. And art. I need my time alone too, this makes life bearable. Let’s lump in all those life-sustaining elements, like food and air in the fifth spot. I need these too.

You can also check out his website here.

Lobby lounge photos by me.  All other images courtesy of Andrew Morrow.

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