Current Issue #488

Andrew Baines' world of liberating surrealism

Andrew Baines, High Diver, 80 x 120 cm

Andrew Baines’ latest exhibition at BMG gallery is his 50th solo exhibition, a huge milestone for this artist preoccupied with existentialism.

Over the years, Andrew Baines’s work has evolved with the artist developing a style that sits somewhere between realism and graphics. From Art deco bathers to corporate escapism, this exhibition revisits some of Baines’ early concepts but with a quasi-surreal touch.

The basis for many of Baines paintings are his installations, created throughout Australia in public spaces and beaches. He documents these installations and then uses the photos as inspiration for his paintings. “The vast majority of my work is holistic, combining community installation art and painting to bring my concepts to fruition,” states Baines. “I will put out a call for volunteers via the mainstream media and social media to participate in, say, a mass human installation of suited people standing in the sea, looking on to the horizon.”

To create these installations Baines often collaborates with organisations such as The United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA), the West Australian and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, LWD Company, Holstein Australia, the Art Gallery of WA, Anglicare, FMC Foundation and Wirra Wirra Vineyards. Volunteers have included Malcolm Turnbull, Alexander Downer and Amanda Vanstone. Baines often uses his art practice to help charities, highlighting their causes and raising money.

“Last year, I received an award from the UNAA for my creative help in highlighting their issues. I love that my work is truly holistic,” he says.

Andrew Baines, Holy Holsteins, 80 x 130cm
Andrew Baines, Ironically in hell the coffee is cold, 40 x 40cm

This latest body of work continues Baines’ preoccupation with ideas surrounding existentialism. Many of his paintings feature his trademark cows in surreal situations. “My days are spent persuading cows to stand in the ocean, or corralling hundreds of suited volunteers wielding umbrellas into surreal installations, or asking politicians politely to sit on toilets on public beaches,” he says.

It has been a challenging year personally for Baines and the exhibition includes large canvases that portray high divers soaring out of cumulus clouds, reflecting how Baines is coming out of a bad patch and seeing a bright future. He states: “My paintings are a metaphor of my life, battling with the urban herds, pursuing horizons while seeking autonomy and freedom.”

Baines has recently begun using shadows to create a narrative in his work and give the story perspective. He uses lighthouses as a backdrop for simple narratives about the everyday lives of the people that inhabit them.

Andrew Baines, Beyond the Blue, 80 x 135cm

“One of the works features a lone person looking out into the sky thinking about his loss (my loss) and feeling sorry for himself,” reveals Baines. “He forgets there are still beings in his life that want his company, which is portrayed by a large shadow of a cat in comparison to the almost invisible cat in the foreground.”

There is no sign of things slowing down for Baines with solo exhibitions planned for 2021 in Melbourne and Perth. His quasi-surreal paintings have a broad appeal and while they reflect personal experiences they also provide a sense of escapism, something which, in our current climate, is more important than ever.

19 June – 11 July, BMG Art Gallery

Andrew Baines:
Antipodean Surrealism

Jane Llewellyn

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