Artist Isaac Andrews delivers a painting series that opens up our concepts of self-identity and mental health. With his expansive references and bold approach to subjects considered delicate, Andrews shines a much-needed light on the impacts our minds have on the way we perceive ourselves.
In collaboration with Mind Charity, artist Isaac Andrews presents his exhibition The Party is Over, which can be seen on display at The Truman Brewery from the 8th until the 12th of July. The show will feature a range of thought-provoking oil paintings that bring viewers into awareness of both the complexities and simplicities of mental health. We caught up with Andrews to discuss his strong thematic approaches, creative inspirations and future projects.
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Your solo exhibition The Party Is Over begins today, and it showcases some evocative pieces with themes surrounding mental health and self-identity. How did you come to select these themes?
Exploring these themes is something that’s been a part of my practice since the very start, and I wanted to revisit them for this show because I felt it’s overlooked. It’s stuff you don’t really see art about, or people talking about, anywhere near as much as it deserves to be talked about. I make art about it because it’s real.
This exhibition consists of oil paintings that delicately depict these themes and ideas. What made you decide on this choice of medium for this series?
I’ve been working in oil for a while now, and have fallen in love with the materiality of it. It’s such a beautiful process. It’s not like anything else. There’s so much freedom in the process, that’s something I really like. And it’s something you have to learn and develop, that’s another side of it I appreciate. It’s a true craft. You have to dedicate time to it.
The exhibition is in aid of Mind Charity with vast percentages of the sale profits being donated to the charity. What drew you to this organisation in particular?
I’ve done projects in aid of Mind Charity multiple times now, and keep coming back as they do the most important work surrounding mental health, from directly helping those struggling to campaigning for improved services. And as this whole body of work surrounds mental health, it only felt right to have the show hosted in aid of Mind.
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What is the title The Party Is Over based on?
The quote came from Terence Dixons 1970 documentary portrait of James Baldwin, where he says this line when talking about ideas of pretence and facade. It felt apt to recontextualise this quote in terms of mental health as often many who struggle don’t think they’re allowed to struggle, and they keep up these facades. Many people act on a daily basis to everyone they know because they feel they have to, or because they feel their problems aren’t justified enough. I want to try to show that people don’t need to hide these feelings. There’s no need for pretence.
Alongside James Baldwin, who are some of the other creatives that have inspired you and your work?
It’s very broad. In terms of artists, I take from everyone I can, from every movement I can. I’ll take a mark making technique from German expressionism; a compositional idea from Venetian School; body posture ideas from neo-classical sculptures; colour palette ideas from impressionists etc etc. And it’s not just creatives that inspire my work. I take a lot from different thinkers and writers. Musicians as well. This entire show is heavily influenced by philosophy. I like to say my practice sits somewhere between art and philosophy. I try to paint answers to questions.
How would you describe your art style?
I’m not sure. I don’t really feel inclined to label it as anything. My paintings are both figurative and abstract. They’re both personal and universal. I’d say it’s something in the realms of contemporary figuration but that feels restrictive. I don’t like labelling my practice as then it feels I have to conform to it. I’d rather just make whatever I want to make and leave it at that.
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What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt so far on your journey as an artist?
Do it yourself. I spent a long time waiting around for people to tell me what to do, to guide me in the right direction, to introduce me to the right people. It took a while before I realised that I just have to do the work and good things will follow. And to make art for the right reasons - for yourself, not for anyone or anything else. And definitely not for money. I get asked a lot by young artists how I managed to start working with brands, selling works and having exhibitions etc - my advice is always the same. Just do the work. No one’s going to do it for you.
The Party Is Over is on for 5 days at the Old Truman Brewery from the 8th-12th of July. What are some of the takeaways you hope people have after visiting the show?
I hope people question what they thought about mental health. The point of the show is depicting a universal, everyman figure - I want to make it clear that mental health is a universal thing, and anyone can struggle from it. But we don’t really think of it as universal.
This is your third show so far in your career, and at just 19 years old you’ve managed to produce some amazing collaborations with global brands such as Converse and Nike. What was it like working with these labels?
I was honoured. It meant a lot and I’d love to continue working with brands like this in the future. I’ve been very lucky so far on my journey as an artist, and can only hope this will continue. I just want to keep painting and hopefully opportunities come about, but I don’t rely on that being the case. 
What should we expect from you next?
I’m looking to have another solo exhibition relatively soon, as well as curating a group show before the end of this year. Other than that I’m just going to continue painting.
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