Meet One of the Small Works Project Artists: Andrew Fish

Andrew Fish is one of twelve artists selected as a Gallery 263 Small Works Project artist. This project presents artwork in flat files at the gallery and on our website for the duration of one year. All artists are based in Massachusetts. Visit Fish’s Small Works Project page to see more of his work.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in VT and moved to New York City when I was 18. I went to art school and pursued all kinds of creative things for 15 years before moving to Hanoi, Vietnam for a year. I moved to the Boston area in 2006 where I’ve been ever since. I teach at Massart College and Lesley Art & Design. My home and my studio are both in Somerville, MA.

What kind of art do you make?
I make figurative paintings that are expressive, representational, and abstract. I work from photography which often supports a narrative. I work with personal experience and a love of imagery. Color and composition are as important to me as subject matter. They support each other.

What concepts does your art explore?
I’m interested in the space between imbued meaning and open narrative. I use representational imagery derived from photography so I like how an image can tell a story differently for different people. The ambiguity is important, but I’m also interested in metaphor and allegory.

Can you tell us about the work you have on view in your flat file drawer at the gallery?
The paintings in the flat files are all oil paint on paper. I use Arches oil paper as well as Guerrilla brand carton paper.

Bad Cat is a painting of a young girl struggling with her cat. I used a photograph from a former student of mine named Shayna and was inspired by her original photographic composition. The interior space surrounding the figure feels claustrophobic and the abstraction around the cat makes it look like it’s flailing. I find humor in this painting but also like the idea that the cat represents an anxious, youthful energy.

Harpsichord was a little experiment for a larger painting. It’s based on a friend playing a harpsichord in front of a window. It was a lived experience and I made a couple of paintings about it. The keyboard breaks free and has a mind of its own.

Social is a picture of two people huddled together looking at a phone. It’s based on other work that I did in 2020 about social distancing. I used a photograph that I took when I was in China in 2019. I had a vinyl adhesive stencil cut for another painting but the stencil worked better on this smaller work on paper. The twisting shapes contradict the rigid graphic look of the gate behind the figures.

Where do you make your work?
I have a studio at Vernon Street Studios in Somerville, MA

What are your favorite materials to use? Most unusual?
I’m an oil painter, primarily. But I also love gouache and soft graphite. I work in printmaking too. Mostly monotype and linocut. Probably the most unusual tools I use are pattern rollers. They’re made of rubber and fit on the end of a common paint roller. They were designed as the poor man’s wallpaper alternative but they make really wonderful decorative patterns.

What historical and contemporary artists inspire you?
I grew up on Impressionism, Illustration, and Pop Art but was seduced by mid-20th century AbEx, or “New York School” painting after I moved to NYC when I was 18. I have had a wandering, meandering love affair with all kinds of art and artists over the years, but mostly I have loved painting and painters, both abstract and representational.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I think I was in elementary school. Art was the only thing I was good at and I got a lot of attention for it. I kept drawing and painting, taking every class that was offered, and then went to art school.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’m currently working on a body of work for an upcoming solo show at Childs Gallery in Boston, opening on September 9th. It’s a look at being a Gen Xer at mid-life. I’m using imagery from the Internet and revisiting a lot of cultural, societal, and political themes from the era.