Andrew Blythe is a self-taught artist whose work is supported by Toi Ora Live Art Trust, a community arts centre providing studio space and tuition for people who have experienced mental illness.
A turbulent adolescence saw Blythe in and out of hospital as well as living rough on the streets of Auckland. During this time he would draw with pencil and Indian ink as a cathartic expression of his experience.
Blythe presented his first solo show at Satellite Gallery, Auckland in 2008. That same year he showed at the New York Outsider Art Fair where long-time supporter and promoter of outsider art in New Zealand, Stuart Shepherd, introduced him to Phyllis Kind - trustee of the American Folk Art Museum and a gallerist renowned for her discovery and support of self-taught artists.
Andrew Blythe's international recognition has grown steadily, with works being bought by collectors on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Sackner Archive of Concrete Poetry in Miami. The Chartwell Collection and the James Wallace Arts Trust have also acquired works. A Paris show in 2009 was followed by a second presentation at the New York Outsider Art Fair in 2011. Until September 2012 his work can be seen in Local Knowledge: art graphique de Nouvelle-Zelande at MADmusee de Liege, Belgium.
Stuart Shepherd writes:
"[Andrew Blythe's work] can be read sometimes in a linear way; when the meandering noughts and crosses lead the eye on a trail that mixes the deliberate with the random. And they can also be read in a non-linear way when his painterly layering technique, like layering one sheet of chicken-wire on top of another, requires us to decipher which brush strokes went down first. To engage with his work in this way again demands a closer look and a little more time.
Andrew's work often plays with, or rather studies, the balance of purpose and chance, or control and accident. Often the chance/purpose balance is simply contained in the nature of paint, and against this Andrew tests his ability with a brush. For example, he might test the way the paint dribbles off an overloaded brush, but not so much that it runs off everywhere, but just enough so that it can be repeated to make a pattern. Or the way a brushed line of acrylic paint can run back over itself, as it dries, to create a maze-like palimpsest through which we can see glimpses of the original surface, like a birds eye -view of the most concentrated flyovers on the Auckland motorway system.
Andrew has written about cities and their unstoppable momentum; perhaps it is the city, its energy and its process of layering, overlapping and cancelling out that finds expression in Andrew's work.
I am not at all suggesting that the motif of the negative, the X, means his work has a nihilistic message. Rather, what I get from the work is optimistic: an artist absorbed in a process of discovery and finding voice in the language of paint."