In the basement of his family home, we caught up with Isaac Andrews whilst he was adding the finishing touches to his work for his second exhibition, titled “Ignorance Is Human Nature”. His work is being showcased at the Soho Revue Gallery, 8-10 Brewer Street, this weekend. We sat down to talk about his work, inspirations and aspirations.
Tell us a bit about yourself Isaac…
I’m a 16 year old visual artist, currently focusing on using collage, and other mediums, as a form of social commentary. Creating work that intends to provoke and make the audience question their mind set and perception on society.
What’s your exhibition this weekend about?
This collection of work plays on the human instinct to resort to ignorance, and the extent to which ignorance is engrained in our society. The pieces are a form of social commentary, provoking and questioning ignorance as our intrinsic instinct.
When did you first start working with collage?
June 2018. Before that I did a lot of charcoal drawings. There’s this artist called Larry Amponsah who does collage in a different way to what I considered normal, and I did a workshop with him and now we support each other’s work. That was the first time I made any sort of collage, and I just thought it was a lot less restrictive. I like the idea of having an image that tells a story and as soon as it’s put next to another image it can tell a completely different story, and how can you do that on a big scale.
When did you become interested in making work around ignorance?
The Extinction Rebellion and the marches got me into the idea of ignorance, how I saw people’s attitudes to stuff.
What are your thought towards the exhibition this weekend?
I’m excited, but I’m also quite stressed because there is so many things that could go wrong, like I could lose or break a piece. But other than that I think I’m quite prepared. Compared to where I was before my first exhibition – I had two pieces still to finish the night before – it ended up being very stressful and not enjoyable. It all turned out fine in the end, but I wouldn’t like that to happen again.
What effect do you want your work to have?
This exhibition is about ignorance, and how ignorance shouldn’t be human nature, it shouldn’t be instinct to think, “oh that’s not my problem” and simply ignore it. So directly with Extinction Rebellion and climate change thinking “oh that’s not going to affect me I don’t care” – well, it is.
I’m hoping that it’s going to initiate conversation in someone that these topics aren’t resonating with. Maybe there is something I can do to change that mind set? Making people think twice, to question their instinct. If one person comes away from the exhibition thinking ‘maybe I shouldn’t be thinking that way I am’, then I have done what I wanted to do. I want the work to linger in someone’s mind, but I know that’s quite hard to do.
You say you want to create work that lingers in people minds, is that something you’ve felt yourself?
Yes and no – and they are both very important sides. I’ve been to exhibitions and thought ‘I quite enjoyed walking around that for 10 minutes’, but then thought about what I actually gained from that experience. I appreciate artists who focus on aesthetics as well as meaning, forcing you to think about things – like Olafur Eliasson, who uses colours that causes chemicals to release in your brain, forcing you to think more about what you’ve seen. There have been times where I have, and sometimes where I haven’t thought more about art after I’ve seen it. I think ‘why is that?’, and what causes something to stay in your mind, and playing around with that is fun.
So what have you built on from your last exhibition?
Just having a scene that makes a lot more sense as a whole collection of work. Before it was just like, here’s all the art I’ve made shoved into one room. As I said, compared to where I was before my first exhibition, it ended they’re being unenjoyable and I don’t want that to happen again.
Has social media affected your work in anyway?
Yes definetly. I got my first exhibition space through Instagram. Without social media I wouldn’t have the exhibition, because I wouldn’t have the audience. My work isn’t Instagram art as its quite hard to fit into a Instagram post – you have to see it up close. Especially these pieces as it wouldn’t work anywhere near as well on your phone as to seeing it in person, which is why I wanted to have this exhibition.
How would you describe Instagram art?
Work that’s just made to fit in that square, when you have artists that only have Instagram to show their work – I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all, but it’s just not how my work would fit.
Does anybody in your family make art?
No not really. My parents love art, but they don’t make anything. They do support me a lot, which I am very fortunate for.
Before the interview, you mentioned your brother. Does he still live here with you?
No he’s at Uni now – he’s at Oxford doing English Literature. I think I want to go to art school.
Collaging has come more popular recently, have you ever thought about working more commercially with brands?
Maybe if they allowed me to do my art with their images, like what The Basement wanted me to do. It felt very organic. That was literally me just creating my art, but I’m not sure I want to become a graphic designer or working in marketing or something.
Have you thought about what you might do after the exhibition?
I’d love to do a collaging workshops.
Why is that important for you?
The people who supported me and my work, without them I wouldn’t be able to have anything – I wouldn’t be able to have an exhibition, I wouldn’t be able to show my work to anyone. People have asked me how I’ve made my pieces, saying they can’t do it, that their pictures don’t stick down properly and other small things like that. But if I could like teach people something, that would be quite cool for me, yeah that would be incredible.
I did my GCSEs this year, and since then I’ve had three people do an artist investigation on me. Like 5 months ago I was doing art investigations on artists myself, and now people are doing them on me, which is crazy.
What’s that like?
The highest form of respect, It really means a lot to have someone like my work that much that they spend their time researching me. What was weird is there’s one person who did it and I’m in the same year as them, so there could be a moderator marking my work, and then marking somebody else’s work that’s about my work. It just makes me want to make more.
When I think back to my first exhibition, the works aren’t anywhere near as good as they could have been. Whenever I make a piece I want it to be the best piece I’ve ever made. I’m still 16, I’m still learning how to do everything and I will continue to get better and better. It’s things like learning how to put the glue on in a specific way, or what boards to use. I’ve had to scrap pieces before, because they weren’t started right. I am very much a perfectionist.
We wish Isaac good luck this weekend. If you get a chance head down to Soho to check his work out, and speak to him yourself.
23-24 (Saturday & Sunday) November. 8 – 10 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0SR.