In Australia, Adventist artist discusses art, life, and transcendence.
Published on: 12-04-2021
Having lectured in visual arts at Avondale University for 25 years, and with an internationally acclaimed body of work spanning decades, Andy Collis is a fine artist and art academic well-loved by the Adventist community in Australia and beyond.
With experience painting everything from portraits to abstract expressionism, Andy usually creates artworks from his home studio in Saratoga, New South Wales, but says he also likes to get out and about to paint “plein air” landscapes. For the past four years, he has also been teaching part time at Central Coast Adventist School.
“This is something I hadn’t really anticipated, but I am finding [it] tremendously rewarding — both spiritually and artistically,” Andy explained. “I am, hopefully, sharing my passion and understanding of creative art practice with these young hearts and minds.”
Having studied visual arts extensively, Andy spent the first 32 years of his life in the United Kingdom. He went to university, did post-graduate study in visual arts, and then lectured in art history and painting and drawing at tertiary colleges. Before emigrating to Australia, he also exhibited extensively throughout the United Kingdom, including at the Royal Academy Summer Show.
These days, when he’s not teaching, Andy spends half of his week creating artworks and is represented by KAB Gallery in Terrigal (Central Coast) and Pymble (Sydney).
Reflecting on his childhood, Andy said, “I loved painting and drawing from being a little kid — I never thought of doing anything else.
“The creative practice of art-making, for me anyway, is totally absorbing,” he added. “That does not mean, at all, that it is without stress or concerns, but the process of making an image is always a challenge with which to get to grips.”
Described by KAB Gallery as an “expressive painter,” Andy said he approaches his work in an honest, spontaneous manner.
“It is not about looking for ‘nice’ things that I would like to make a ‘pleasant picture’ of. Rather, I look at whatever is in front of me — whether it is a person, landscape, still life — and try to work out what it is I am really experiencing,” he said. “It’s lovely if others enjoy seeing the results, but that’s not my motivation for making art. For me, making the art gives me a deep awareness of what the world around me is about, how I perceive it—and, ideally, that equates or reveals something worthwhile to others.”
Andy said it is this process of experiencing life and expressing those realities that allow him to gain a small glimpse of the richness of life that God has provided to each of us.
“I think it occurs to everyone to try and understand and ask essential questions about life itself. Making oneself receptive and perceptive to what is around us brings us closer to the essence of what purposeful life is about,” he explained.
Speaking of purpose and what the future holds, Collis said his current chapter is a culmination of his life experiences coming full circle.
“When I was only 10 years old, my primary school once asked an artist to visit our class. She picked up on my ability as a ‘potential’ artist. She held a drawing up of an apple that I had done. She put it on the library wall, and the following week she showed me a book of Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s artworks — they sowed the seed which motivated me to have the confidence to do more art. That was a very long time ago, but over the past few years, I sense the deeper significance of that. [Now] I am hopeful that [my students] will learn to appreciate artistic practice . . . for its holistic contribution to their education and lifestyle — a more meaningful or enhanced way to enjoy their lives.
“Other than that, there is always the next artwork to be produced by myself,” he said. “I never know what it’ll be until I’m doing it!”