Five questions to Andy Mac Manus

Five questions to Andy Mac Manus

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Andy Mac Manus (born 1979) is an Irish artist living and working in London for the past 15 years. Andy studied Art straight out of school, later moving towards Design, which ultimately led to him graduating with an MA in Graphic Design from The London College of Communication in 2011. He has exhibited extensively across Ireland, in the UK and as far afield as Beijing and Shanghai. How did you get into art?

I grew up in the centre of a mid-sized town and we didn’t have a garden, so I was the kid who was always making things with Lego and plasticine, and I’ve been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. I was lucky to have a young mother who noticed my interest in art very early and always encouraged it. I went to art classes from quite a young age and some of my earliest memories are of being involved in local art competitions. 

How would you describe your style? What makes your work special?

My visual language has developed over the years but the work I’m producing now is usually quite colourful; exploring form, shape, and pattern and often playing with the juxtaposition of hard-edge painting alongside more expressive marks and shapes. In some instances, collage plays a part too. 

I think I find inspiration in things overlooked by most people. I take this inspiration as fuel to go and create work that I then put back out into the world. That metamorphous in the middle is the secret sauce, or what makes it special. It’s a re-interpretation, but with my own energy.How do you go about developing your work?

The starting point can vary. Sometimes I photograph compositions that catch my eye in the built environment, or literally on the street. I’m interested in how nature interacts with the man-made environment and vice versa. Everything from puddles and cracks in the pavement to street markings and architecture. Light and shadow also pique my interest. Other times I rely on the actual physical process and the work is spawned by the act of doing/making.  

In the studio I use both contemporary and traditional techniques, including digital and analogue collage, cut-outs and mark making. I like to explore shape and form to produce intuitive abstract designs and illustrations that are then painted onto a surface. Positive and negative space; colour theory and composition are also integral to the work. At this stage process is the key, and I use block colour, pattern and in some cases fragmentation to reach an outcome with happy accidents always welcome. Who or what influences you?

Art and design movements like The Bauhaus, Constructivism, Memphis Milano, Geometric Abstraction and Minimalism are good reference points for me. More broadly, my design background certainly has a big influence. I think that’s part of where I get my intuition to frame shapes, balance my compositions, and colour interactions. Other things like street signage, typography, literature, and conversation inspire me at times. Music has and will always play a big part in my life.

Make us curious. What are you planning to do next?

I have just completed some large, illuminated window installations across two sites on Stratford High Street here in London, which will remain on display until the end of December. Additionally, I have work on show in a group exhibition at Folkstone Art Gallery, running until the end of January. 

Since I painted my first murals last summer, I have enjoyed showcasing my work in the public realm. I have been fortunate to work on several exciting projects, including having my work projected at a large scale in Dublin City Centre. Working and seeing work on a much bigger scale carries a distinct energy, and the discourse with the viewer is, of course, different. I am excited to continue developing this aspect of my practice, with two murals in the pipeline for early next year and potentially the opportunity to work on 3D objects at one of the sites, something I have been wanting to explore. 

More immediately, as we enter the winter months and I reflect, it has been a busy year. Now, I am eager to spend as much time as possible developing my studio practice. Although I have been making art for most of my life, in my twenties, I explored various mediums but predominantly worked as a printmaker. I spent most of my thirties working as a designer and enjoying all that London has to offer a little too much, if I'm honest. A combination of having a child and the pandemic totally refocused me and urged me to make art again. It's only in the last two years that I have taken up painting seriously, so I feel my style is in its infancy. I am confident in the work I have been producing, and I feel my practice is in a very exciting stage of evolution. Even I am not sure where the process will take my work next.Learn more about the artist: