Stephen Andrews

McMichael Canadian Art Collection
November 10, 2018 - February 18, 2019

Friendly Fire (a BBC cameraman also received minor injuries but continued to film with his blood dripping on the lens)

Friendly Fire (a BBC cameraman also received minor injuries but continued to film with his blood dripping on the lens) , 2003
crayon rubbing on parchment
19 x 24 inches
collection of Salah Bachir and Jacob Yerex

Coinciding with the exhibition David Milne: Modern Painting and the centenary of the Armistice, this exhibition will focus on Stephen Andrews’ works responding to images of war and prisoners of war, exploring the way in which we experience such imagery through the media. Andrews’ works, which are largely pencil crayon on mylar, subtly interpret the omissions and misinterpretations of war imagery, with many images culled from unofficial soldiers’ blogs and other online platforms.

The bulk of the exhibition will feature the artist’s work from 2003 through 2006, which deals primarily with the Iraq War. Andrews will also be showing a new work arising from his visit earlier this year to the Vimy Ridge Memorial in northern France. Like Milne, Andrews’ war imagery focuses on the aftermath of conflict, and the problem of finding new formal means to convey the experience of looking. Not incidentally, Andrews has been a long-time admirer of the work of David Milne, walking in his footsteps with this cerebral, yet deeply felt work.

Aftermath Discussion Panel
Saturday, November 10 at 11:30 am

On the eve of the centenary of the Armistice, this moderated panel will explore the role of art in recording and memorializing historical trauma. The forum will include David Macfarlane playwright and novelist, author of The Danger Tree, Toronto visual artist Stephen Andrews and Dianne Bos whose exhibitions will be open on this day at the McMichael. The discussion will be moderated by McMichael Chief Curator Sarah Milroy.

Registration required. Fee includes gallery admission and special Stephen Andrews/ Dianne Bos exhibition tours at 1:30 pm & 3:00 pm

REVIEW: The Globe and Mail, pub. 14 December, 2018

by Kate Taylor

In the season of merry, cheery, fa-la-la, it can be invigorating to catch up with serious-minded contemporary art. Several of the fall’s more interesting offerings are still on view, ready to provide some counterbalance to consumerism and overindulgence.

The largest and possibly the grimmest is Aftermath. It’s an exhibition at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont., devoted to Stephen Andrews’s profound encounter with images of the Iraq War in a project dating to 2003. If Vietnam was the first war witnessed on television, this one was the first witnessed by the internet. Andrews’s material is drawn from soldiers’ blogs and other unofficial sources depicting the everyday horrors as American troops entered Iraq.

There are images of the burning oil fields and the humiliated Iraqi prisoners at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, but Andrews’s approach is not documentary. To create these works, he reproduced found photographs and video stills on parchment or mylar by making crayon rubbings through a piece of metal mesh. Because he limited himself to the four colours of the commercial printing process – cyan, yellow, magenta and black – and because the mesh produced a grid pattern, the pictures look pixilated, like grainy television images or cheap dot-matrix printing. And yet they are hand-made, as Andrews forcefully slowed down the process of snapping, blogging and posting to the speed of art.

This painstaking deconstruction and rebuilding should be enough to slow us down too, to make us reflect on an ill-considered war or produce a minute of silence for its many victims. Certainly, it is enough to let us look at images we might not otherwise stomach. In The Quick and the Dead, one of two videos included in the show curated by Sarah Milroy for the McMichael, Andrews began with a found video of a soldier extinguishing a flaming corpse. He then broke it down frame by frame, reproduced each frame as a coloured crayon rubbing and then reassembled his drawings back into a two-minute animated video. (Cleverly, the effect is also reproduced as an old-fashioned flip book in the exhibition catalogue. The juxtaposition of the playful format with the grisly content is suitably jarring.)

Sometimes, these soft, pointillist drawings can become almost beautiful. The show opens with a small image, Friendly Fire, in which a scene is marked with several red splotches: The photographer was hit and his blood splashed on the camera lens. From there, Andrews produced a second work that is simply one blood spot enlarged to the size of a mighty abstract sun. It’s called Yesterday’s News Remembered Today and the title seems to perfectly summarize the way this reflection on the legacy of Iraq surmounts the passing years.