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.
His 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
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
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 you?
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 important?
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 alive.
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
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
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
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
So, how does your own sexuality influence your work?
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
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
And finally, what are your plans for the future?
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 and shown.