Andrew Marr on His New Exhibition
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Andrew Marr on His New Exhibition

'Life is short – if not now, when?'

On this week’s episode of Break Out Culture, Ed Vaizey and Charlotte Metcalf meet journalist and TV presenter Andrew Marr. Most of us know Andrew for his razor-sharp interview skills, but he wears many hats – including an artistic one. His latest exhibition, Town and Country, launches this week at Eames Fine Art Gallery. 

Andrew Marr on His New Exhibition

Charlotte: Can you start by telling us where you found time to draw and paint?

I get up relatively early and work very hard. I have drawn all my life and since the stroke, I’ve made sure I make a drawing every day. These are abstract drawings reflecting my mood. They’re both a kind of visual diary and also a discipline to keep myself thinking about drawing. I also make oil paintings in a studio near my house. I regard the paintings as much a form of communication between me and the outside world as any of my articles or books or broadcasts. Therefore it’s really important to me that people see them and think about them, which is why I’m very pleased this exhibition is happening.

Ed: Did you start this when you became a political journalist, to switch off from the hustle and bustle, or has it always been something that’s inside you?

The biggest row I can recall when I was a small child was getting a severe telling off from my parents because I had rolled aside one of the sofas and used the nice blank wall to draw all over. I drew over everything all the time. But because life is busy, the painting for a long time tended to be something I did either on holiday or at the weekends. Then I had my stroke and, because I’m semi paralysed on the left side, that meant I couldn’t do that. It’s very hard to take an easel and all the gear and the equipment and set it up, particularly if there’s a slight wind blowing. I had to retreat to the studio. The kind of paintings I had always loved – abstract paintings – I felt I couldn’t do because I never went to art school. Then I thought: life is short – if not now, when? My painting and my drawing took a different turn and this is the fifth or sixth solo show I’ve done.

Ed: Does the artistic sensibility change one’s approach to politics?

The only thing that I can see that connects the two is that I am quite emotional and have strong reactions to things. I think you can tell that by the way I do my interviewing. And I’ve got an endless insatiable curiosity about the world around me. So I am really interested in why politicians do things – how they cope with extraordinary pressure they live under. And those are all things that are reflected in the paintings.

Andrew Marr Town & Country exhibition

Ed: Do you think politicians take art seriously enough?

Not at all. I’m really upset about it. We have now several generations of kids coming through British schools who have never been taught the basics of drawing. Without the basics of drawing, you can’t have design, you can’t have engineering design, you can’t have all the great crafts designs that British people have lived off. We are a great design country ranging from Rolls Royce engines to leather chairs to clothes. All of that comes from drawing. It’s not just about fine art. And yet we have robbed generations of children of the essential skills that they need. David Hockney was taught how to draw, and he is now probably the world’s most famous artist.

Ed: Who is your favourite artist?

For me the most life-affirming, complex and interesting British post-war artist is Gillian Ayres, who is a complete hero of the abstract world. But the absolute god of modern painting and who influences anybody who takes painting seriously is of course Matisse.

You can listen to the full episode here.

Town and Country launches at Eames Fine Art Gallery from 9 June – 4 July 2021.


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