With her contagious enthusiasm for painting and environmentalism, abstract artist Nedret Andre harnesses enviable energy directly onto canvas. She is somehow able to create paintings that are both abstractly seagrass, but also figurative at the same time. For Andre, color exploration is a mainstay of her paintings, and when she adds in her signature mark-making, she is able to create a difficult-to-achieve combination of abstraction with just the right level of intention.
On the occasion of Andre’s newest solo show, entitled City By The Sea, at Beacon Gallery, we had the chance to interact with Andre and ask her a few questions about her background and her artwork. It was a pleasure getting to know more about her.
(The following responses have been edited for length and clarity)
What was your path to becoming an artist? How did you develop your artistic style, and how has it evolved over time?
As a child I painted all the time. My first painting that was displayed was at my elementary school’s entry way in London. It was a peacock that I painted in tempera paint. I think I was 6 at the time. I remember all the beautiful patterns in the feathers.
I also loved to sketch my grandad. He was a perfect subject, wrinkly, with no hair and could sit still for many hours. During high school I received art awards and loved everything about art.
My parents decided I should study business for my first degree. And so I did, and ended up working for the performance art center in Hemel Hempstead. Long story short, I moved to Boston, went back to college at Mass. College of Art and taught in elementary schools, high schools, and then colleges. My MFA is from Maine College of Art.
What inspires your work, and how do you land on your subject matter? Do you have any particular routines to motivate your creativity? Compared to 5 years ago, what do you think has changed the most about your artmaking?
I love art history. My favorite pastime is to visit museums and galleries. I love to travel and learn about the unique creations each culture has. My other passion is helping with seagrass conservation. I guess I like to “garden” in the ocean.
The biggest change in the past 5 years is my increased ability to connect with the “emotion” or feelings of nature. When I first started painting seagrass in 2014-15, nature felt very theoretical, as I painted it into abstract artwork. Now my work is more gestural and process oriented. Even while creating I am connected to the sensations of being in water, and the experience of snorkeling in seagrass meadows.
What projects are you working on right now, and what would you like to accomplish in the near (or distant) future?
I am thankful to be working on some amazing commissions in the studio right now. I want to paint a large-scale panels, a series of vertical canvases that are about being immersed in the ocean, so when you walk up to them it feels like you could be deep underwater.
In the distant future I’d like to experiment with multi-media and paper sculptures of eelgrass. I’ve already cut them up, I just haven’t figured out how to assemble them together.
Any art, book, movie, recipe, media, etc. recommendations, or just anything you’ve been particularly enjoying recently?
- All We Can Save, by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Katharine K. Wilkinson
- Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
- Francis Bacon, The Logic of Sensation, by Gilles Deleuze
- Kiss the Ground (2020)
- A Life on our Planet, David Attenborough (2020)
- My Octopus Teacher (2020)
- Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – Wes Anderson (2004)
I Enjoy experimenting with gardening. Since learning about composting through my seagrass adventures, I have started composting and enjoying gardening.