Forty paintings in three distinct sizes – small, medium and large – each in the notoriously difficult square format, challenging the artist’s compositional skills. Located in both spaces in Sheffield’s excellent Cupola Gallery, Andy Cropper’s latest exhibition is essential viewing for lovers of painting and of Sheffield.
Andy is an artist who clearly relishes a challenge. Witness Construction, an impossible jigsaw puzzle of the interweaving girders and beams of a multi-storey building in the making, internal lights of various degrees of brightness poking through the gaps. It is an extraordinary painting, looking typically photographic from a distance, drawing the viewer in to reveal marks more painterly than might be expected. Patches of underpainting are allowed to create effects of diffused light, reflections and shadows; thick blobs of white for bright light and highlights; lines subtly etched into oil paint suggest mortar lines in brickwork. It is a masterly understanding of oil paint and its inherent qualities and capabilities. This knowledge is not only acquired from books, it is also from handling paint and testing it out, again and again.
This scene of construction is an unusual choice of subject matter – not least because of its staggering complexity – but is indicative of a changing city, one that threatens to leave behind some of the other places that fall under Andy’s particular gaze. In addition to being poignant snapshots of contemporary urban living these paintings also appear to be moments of epiphany for the artist, awestruck by something beyond words – a tension, a mysterious weight. He invests time and faith in the act of painting in a gentle invitation to us, the spectator, to similarly consider their psychological implications and resonances.
As a whole, Uncertain Spaces is a thorough exploration of the overlooked areas of a fascinating city, yet amongst the works on display there are nuances of the eerie atmosphere that nighttime creates. Loading Bay is a melancholic musing on an all-too-familiar scene of abandonment, with the artist wringing out details that act as clues to previous activity; Tree Silhouette, in contrast, is a delicate, sombre contemplation of life on the edge of the city, a possible metaphor for isolation, rendered in suitably restrained brushwork and of breathtaking beauty; and Welcome sees the artist give a gnarled entrance to a car-park a curious majesty, a gateway to more dark corners.
Get to know Andy better in our Meet the Locals interview.
Friday 7 June, 7:30pm
Thursday 20 June 7-9:30pm
- Words by
- Sean Williams