Michael Andrews was born in 1928 and died in 1995. He didn't produce many paintings (although the ones he made tended to be large). In the exhibition at Tate Britain until 17 October the full range of his work can be appreciated for the first time. Andrews followed a route which depersonalises the act of looking. He was taught by William Coldstream, and said: 'Bill gave me my first enlightenment. He persuaded me of the paramount value of looking, of appraisal and, in transcription, of direct statement, of which he said: "Just write it down." It was so simple and unforgettable.' The little lines and crosses which show through the paint in Coldstream's pictures record intervals meticulously (sometimes obsessionally and even destructively). In paintings by Sickert the grid which allowed a squared-up drawing to be copied to canvas sometimes shows through the paint. There are paintings by Andrews in which remnants of construction lines serve a double purpose: they are a necessary scaffolding, but also marks which demonstrate effort, in Andrews's case that which has gone into transferring the details of an intermediate image - a postcard or photograph - to canvas. Like the hallmark on a piece of silver, they can work only if they interfere with the surface which they authenticate.
LRB 9 August 2001 | PDF Download