Andrew Antoniou & The Theatre Of The Absurd
“Explanation separates us from astonishment, which is the only gateway to the incomprehensible.”
Andrew Antoniou has committed himself to an uncompromising vision in his art, creating a powerful and engaging body of work in which his drawings, etchings and paintings reflect an interior world. This world is experienced through the subconscious and the imagination, through a cast of characters brought together in fantastic circumstances and enigmatic ritual, all expressed in his confident visual language. Antoniou's strength as a draughtsman and printmaker lends his work a particular graphic intensity. Mirroring the force of his imagery, his work positions concentrated, solid figures within static tableaux within a close, almost stifling space. While his drawings exhibit a certain density, they also have a subtle quality that comes from his method of drawing in charcoal,with additions and erasures that both intensify the solidity of his characters and add to a sense of stasis or stillness, while simultaneously implying arrested action - his images are moments snatched in time, much like a film still or a scene glanced through the window of a passing vehicle.
The dream world of the subconscious is the locus of Andrew Antoniou's art. He draws upon memory and imagination to create his images, rather than using direct observation and working from life. Like many surrealist artists, his process of forming compositions uses principles of collage - that is, a bringing together of disparate elements, often developed previously in preparatory drawings using different poses or costumes together in a final composition. Unlike much surrealist art. however, Antontiou's work presents images that have a strangely convincing quality, defying their absurdity, through the unified quality of his drawing and sense of calm normalcy that his subjects project. His work has moved beyond the randomness of surrealism into a realm of fantasy and imagination that is carefully considered and quite deliberate.
Whether set in an interior or outdoors context, Antoniou's imagery has a distinct artificiality, his subjects embraced within a proscenium-bound stage with all action drawn forward towards the picture plane, and lit by an intense, unwavering light. This is emphasised by strong contrasts of black charcoal and whitepaper and the overall clarity of his well-defined forms.
Antoniou's theatrical, dream like tableaux are carefully staged, open-ended narratives, enigmatic and subject to interpretation by the viewer. They appeal to our desire for narrative, while remaining elusive. His characters inhabit a Bosch-like world - at times harmonious, at others menacing - with strange collusions of human, animal and fantastic creatures interacting on a stage.
Strange machines, anthropomorphic animals, figures engaged in riiual and dressed in circus costume inhabit the images, in which they enact their roles in a detached way, interacting but at the same time maintaining their aloofness from each other, as they perform their ineffable roles in the unfolding scenes.
Andrew Antoniou's work is laden with metaphor and personal allegory that defies easy interpretation; nor does it ask for it.
Rather, his drawings invite the curious viewer to look within themselves, in order to enter the fantastic world that the artist has created, and make of it what they will.
Curator, Australian Prints
Art Gallery of New South Wales