Andrew Potter explores the effects of light on the classically
ideal male figure. Light that sculpts the body to provide
dramatic form and veiled narrative.
Hi subjects are caught unawares and unobserved in private
moments. The individual identity of each often remains ambiguous
in either the way the models are posed or by the fall of light
and shadow on their bodies. This enhances the voyeuristic
feel and latent sense of eroticism.
However, warm tonality and soft-edged style add romanticism
to his work. Thus it becomes an exchange of confidences between
the artist and viewer of a private and intimate moment.
Interview – Andrew Potter Interview
– January 2008
An exhibition of your work is taking
place at Adonis Art London. What can we expect?
A set of approximately 30 new paintings based
on the male form. The majority are traditional figurative
works informed by the classical Western tradition but there
are a few experimental pieces where I have overlaid a classical
technique and subject matter with effects such as solarisation
normally associated with photography. I’ll also include
some paintings that have a stronger graphic edge to them presenting
a more modern feel.
Your work has been described as exploring
the effects of light on classically ideal male figures. How
would you describe your style?
My style is probably something of a mix between
the drama of Italian Baroque and more meticulous technique
of the later Victorians. I take the light from one and the
colour from the other. I always start out trying to be painterly
in my technique but often edge towards a photo real style.
Your figures are almost sculptural in
their muscle definition. Were you inspired by classical sculpture?
Most definitely, yes. Sculpture is also something
I’d like to try myself one day.
Obviously light is very important to your
work, what is it about the way light defines a body that inspires
A strong directional light can be used to
add a sense of drama to an otherwise quiet and simple composition
by outlining form and revealing intense colour. This is what
inspires me in the creative use of light
Your subjects are often caught unawares
and unobserved in private moments. Is the voyeuristic feel
Definitely a sense of voyeurism is important
adding to the overall eroticism of a painting. However, the
unobserved moment as a subject is a good way to introduce
a narrative into a painting allowing the viewer to come back
to it time and time again overlaying their imagination of
what is happening onto my painting. The painting can change
with the mood of the viewer and get interpreted differently
by anyone who cares to look at it. In this way it remains
The paintings are undoubtedly erotic but
they also have a soft edged style that adds romanticism. What’s
so appealing about this contradiction?
I don’t think that these two elements
of my paintings do contradict one another. The appeal is in
how they compliment each other. I am a romantic at heart and
that informs my sense of eroticism.
The Adonis is evident in your work, but
is this the type of man you go for in real life?
I “married” my Adonis and he is
certainly a great source of inspiration. The classically shaped
physique works best for my style of painting. The ideal sculptured
quality of the male body makes even crops and details arresting
in a simple abstract form. However my taste in men is more
varied and complex than my paintings suggest.
So, how do you find your models?
Finding good models is always difficult for
me. Mostly it has been friends or life models from open drawing
classes. I have a wealth of photographs and old life drawings
as a resource I call upon. I’m always on the lookout
for an interesting and willing subject though. I’m not
somebody that finds it easy to ask someone that I find interesting
if they’d be prepared to pose.
What is it about the naked male body rather than a clothed
one that you find so attractive to paint?
The university I chose to study both my Bachelors
and Masters degrees had an art school that promoted a traditional
academic approach to art, one employed to great effect in
Victorian Art Schools, providing students with a thorough
technical training based on drawing. Drawing the naked human
figure is amongst the most difficult things an artist can
do providing an infinite number of challenging forms. Life
class became a dominant part of my day-to-day existence until
finally I was asked to teach it as a Post Graduate student.
I’ve been hooked ever since, maintaining a great love
of drawing the naked form.
Having said that I should point out that my range of work
extends much further than the naked male body. I find many
subjects attractive to paint and bring to those paintings
the same sensitivities that I bring to the male form. Portraiture
is my favourite form of painting, which will usually, although
not always, involve the clothed figure. I also have a great
love of painting still lifes one of which was accepted into
this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
So, how does your own sexuality influence
I suppose on a most basic level I like to paint things I find
beautiful. It could be a wonderful piece of white porcelain
or a simple arrangement of ripe apples but I’m most
often drawn towards the male form, which is the obvious influence
of my sexuality.
Okay, so where do you stand on the whole
‘gay art’ label. Is it a necessary genre of art
or redundant ghettoising of painting in general?
I think to label something as “gay art”
is too limiting and is more about cultural politics than the
art itself. What does the label actually mean? Does Hockney’s
Grand Canyon landscapes qualify as “gay art” because
the artist is gay? Does a male nude by Rubens qualify as gay
art because I, as a gay man, find it erotically charged. Does
Courbet’s “Sleep” of 1866 become gay art
because it appears to depict a lesbian embrace despite the
artist being heterosexual? I have been commissioned by women
to paint male nudes and several women have bought my paintings
from the Adonis gallery. I’m sure they don’t think
that they are buying gay art. I don’t want to be defined
by my sexuality. Life is not that simple.
What’s the biggest cliché
about gay art?
That you can tell an artist’s sexuality because of what
they paint and how they paint it. I think we impose our own
sexuality upon the art we are looking at.
You've been creating pictures for quite
a while now. How has gay art changed during this time?
I don’t know and I’m not even
sure that it has, assuming you accept in the first place that
“gay art” even exists. The Adonis Gallery has
certainly made it more accessible but where are all the mainstream
exhibitions of contemporary male art? A few years ago the
Tate dedicated a very large exhibition to The Victorian Nude
and only managed to include about 3 male nudes in it.
And finally, what are your plans for the
To carry on painting works that people want
to hang on their wall at home. My plans rarely extend much
further than the next commission; it’s that sort of
business in a way. I always have a part of my brain locked
into the next big open show organised by institutions such
as the Royal Academy preparing work that might be selected