Andrew Cranston draws and paints at the same time, and without conflict, from both observation and imagination. His work presents seen and possible actualities, credible and absurd. Realism re-arranged. Painting is a kind of beautiful way of lying, and Cranston’s work affirms a belief in painting as a real kind of fiction. He is a storyteller of sorts and he takes the premise of fiction as a starting point. The notion that like the writer he can explore feelings, thoughts, scenarios, characters and none of them might be about him, some might be though.
Not that there is much action in these stories. These are lulls, asides in whatever narratives they tell. If painting is a medium of stasis then the figures that people these canvases are frozen, stuck in a moment, unable to move forward with conviction.
All kinds of everyday phenomena provide the impetus for Cranston’s paintings: passages and characters from literature, film stills, jokes, the scenarios of an anecdote, and all manner of interior spaces, real and imagined. He consistently muses on the situation he finds himself in much of the time - making art in a room somewhere in Northern Europe. It is mostly a self-imposed retreat, but to a passer-by must resemble the existence of a monk or a convict. A life lived in parallel through painting, can be absurd, living in pictures and not in life, and his canvases are peopled with artists of varying calibre and success: absorbed, engaged, ambitious, deluded, detached, frustrated, blocked, downright terrible. Some are in their prime, some are heroic losers. They all embrace this life inside a box. And walls are not all bad, some are good and necessary to keep stimuli out and make sense of something, even the corner of a room. ‘What is disconcerting is Cranston’s tendency to suggest that these rooms are stage sets, that walls are merely partitions and the dense background that encroaches and encircles the picture traps whatever is within. As a viewer of these solitary scenes, the experience is intensely unsettling.’ (Jessica Lack)
Cranston’s paintings are most definitely hand-made in the physical sense. They celebrate surface and materiality. Paint as recognisable name-able things and paint as paint. Beuys was right to call it ‘coloured mud’, to remind us of its primal origins. And however much it has deceived, pleased and flattered Kings and Queens, the court painter, however sophisticated, is a caveman at heart.