Andrew Logan about his current countryside lifestyle, a new experience of hotel ownership, his latest works, mirrors as a spiritual material and COVID-19’s impact on art
Andrew Logan is one of the most well-known and influential living British artists. His art covers a variety of genres: from sculptures and paintings to stage design and organizing festivals. Being a true visionary Andrew is armed with unique techniques by using mirrors as a base material for his work. His art is reflected in his personal style through his eccentric and colorful outfits. Joy is the core of Andrew’s art and that is often the response you have when you see his work. His use of bright psychedelic and sparkling colors carry a special sense of humor.
Andrew lives close to the museum dedicated to his work, nestled in the picturesque village Berriew in Mid-Wales. This is also the same village where he owns a boutique hotel. We were lucky to have a chat with this remarkable gentleman about new works, the metaphysical meaning of mirrors, COVID-19’s impact on the art world and his personal experience of having the virus.
Interview: Dmitry Tolkunov
Hi Andrew! Thank you very much for finding time for this interview, it is a really big honor for us. What you are working on now, any noticeable and interesting projects?
Hi! We just refurbished my Museum of Sculpture that was originally opened in 1991. It really needed some reconstruction work and a new heating system. I was restoring some of the sculptures as well. Recently it was the major job.
How do you feel being an only living European artist with his own museum that represents only his art?
It is very nice actually. The main message of my art is joy and celebration and I’m glad that I have an opportunity to share my joy with many people. If you have an exhibition in a particular museum, it can last from 6 weeks to 6 months. By having your own museum your exhibition continues and never stops and will always be there, so the future generations will have a chance to see it.
Never mind that my museum is not in London, it is in the small village Berriew in Mid-Wales when I live now, next to my studio. It is a very picturesque black and white village. The museum is situated in a large Victorian building and it is filled with my work. When I opened the museum in 1991, it was made as a part of a charity program which helped us to get public funding. I have donated all the sculptures to it so they don’t belong to me now, they belong to the museum. The museum is involved in many charity programs, we are able to host their festivals.
You also have your own hotel in this area. Can you tell a bit about it and how did the idea of owning a hotel come to you?
We bought it 3 years ago with my other half Michael. It is a 400 year old property called “Lion Hotel.” Michael completely recreated the space. We have 7 rooms there that are dedicated to the elements –air, earth, fire, water, sun and moon and regal. I’ve made a special piece for each room. For example, in the Earth Room we have a tree of life and in the Air Room mirrors in shapes of clouds decorate the walls.
How is the hotel working now as business model during this Pandemic when people don’t travel as much as they used to do?
We re-opened the hotel only a couple of weeks ago and I think we are already fully booked this weekend. The hotel attracts many people because this area is very good for picturesque walks. There is a beautiful Powis Castle here with one of the finest gardens in Europe. My museum is here as well. So it is really nice to come and stay in the hotel on the weekend to enjoy the countryside and my art.
You must be a local celebrity and a bit like an alien for the Berriew village people?
Exactly (laughs). This is a farming village of only 600 people. Artists are complete aliens to them all. I started to put some of my pieces in the hotel hall, so this people can see them there instead of going to museum. And we are getting to know each other better and better while I am exploring the country for these past 30 years.
Besides of running a hotel and refurbishing the museum, what is interesting in the art world at the moment?
I’ve been working for quite a while on a portrait of my great friend, designer Pam Hog.
Also, over a last few months I was doing a sculpture called “Liberation,” which is inspired much by my last Alternative Miss World event that was called “Psychedelic Peace.” The statue is almost finished now.
I’m working on some smaller pieces and there is also some commissions in India. I actually do a lot of work in India. I have a special passion for this country. First time I was there in 1982 I spent a year, After I returned I did a special exhibition with sculptures that were inspired by this travel. Now India is like a home for me. I have lot of friends there that are almost like family. I completed a project for the Mumbai international airport three years ago, it was called “Guardian Angels of India.” It is a 45-foot-long fascia covered in 22 portraits of significant people like Mahatma Gandhi, Ravi Shankar, freedom fighters and Bollywood stars.
The new work will be a commission IT company. It will be a sculpture of huge flowers one to two meters across with pollinators like bees, dragonflies, butterflies. The only problem is that with this COVID 19 pandemic I can’t fly to India now so I will need to get it done here and then send it. It could be a problem to send the flowers as they are too big, so right now I’m working on collection of pollinators for this installation. I just finished dragonflies.
Travelling is one of the many areas impacted by COVID-19. What other visible and long lasting areas of impact will there be on artists and the art world?
One of the biggest things is an expanding growth of digital sales in art. My problem with digital sales is that my works are too big and you have to see them in person. It is difficult to convey their mood on a photo.
But I look to the future with optimism. I’m sure that we will find a way to deal with this pandemic. As you know there were much more terrible plagues in human history. COVID-19 is not the most dangerous one. The main problem with it is that the world is so global now, people travel a lot all around the globe and the virus spreads much faster than other historical plagues.
Were you able to work during the lockdown?
I’m afraid that I’ve spend this period mostly in bed; I’ve had the COVID-19 virus.
Oh, I’m sorry to hear it… How do you feel now and did this disease hit you hard?
It was mildly hard, but very long, it strongly affected my stomach, lungs and head. I had nothing like it before. I am a very optimistic person, but this illness made me quite depressed, an unusual feeling for me. I’m still recovering and guess it will take a while.
I wish you a fast and complete recovery. I know you moved to the digital world and opened an online shop for your art. Is the jewelry, paintings and sculptures in your online shop available in only one exclusive, single piece, or you can make copies of items?
I always insist on making each piece individually. A lot of artists say they produce jewelry, but they are actually not, they just do drawings of the models and then give them to somebody else who does further work. For me the main point was always to make each piece using my hands, mind and heart. I never do drawings of them, I just take materials and tools and create them. This way of working is very important for me. Over the years I’ve had many suggestions to get my jewelry manufactured in China or India, but I am not here for that, it is not interesting for me. I like an individual approach, and each piece of mine that you can buy comes straight from the artist. And this one of the solid reasons why people love my things.
You are known as an artist with a unique, recognizable style. Your work has a happy, child-like mood, are made in bright, psychedelic colors and often uses mirrors as a base material. Are you still searching for some new approaches of artistic self expression or you are satisfied with the ones mentioned and are they enough for you?
I think life is very short and with this really unique technique that I’m using I feel that there is much more that I can still do with them. But I’m still exploring some new approaches. One of the last things I’ve started to do is go to charity shops and buy painting that were rejected. I paint over them, add to them my drawings and put on top as a collage some element of my jewelry work with using mirrors. So, I customize rejected paintings, in a way.
I really enjoyed recently doing it. It reintroduced me back to work after having the virus. This is a really joyful and it is slightly lighter than doing sculptures. Creating sculptures is much harder work and was difficult for me during the recovery.
Does your passion for using mirrors as a basic material of your art have some metaphysical message? We know the mirror theme takes a big place in human culture and mythology.
Yes, it is a very spiritual material which has a lot of metaphorical meanings in culture, like for example in Jean Cocteau movie Testament of Orpheus where a mirror was shown like a gate between life and death that you can walk through.
I would say that I do physical manifestation of the spiritual in my works. When I first started to use mirrors as a material back in 1968 the first thing that I was impressed by was that it reflected light, and using it is basically like playing with light. It is a physical material but you put a mirror in the room and it brings light inside that has a special energy that I use in my work.
Besides the recognizable techniques in your art you are also known as a man of style that is well represented in your colorful and unique looking outfits. Did you ever think about becoming a fashion designer?
I started to design clothes for myself when I was teenager. I had no money at that point and I used to buy very cheap clothes on sale and transform and customize it according to my taste and needs. I always had a lot of clothes and used to really love fashion in the 70s. Clothes are still very important for me as a form of self-expression. The problem is that I have so many gorgeous outfits but there is nowhere to wear them in Mid-Wales countryside where I spend most of my time nowadays. Only village people get really impressed where they see me walking totally dressed in very bright colors.
Think I could start a fashion brand, but it is a complicated business where you must pay attention to many things like sizes, what people demand in this season and stuff like that. I prefer a more kind of creative and artistic way of making money, so jewelry is just optimal for me as I can make a single, individual piece for somebody and that’s it.
You are known also as a big supporter of different charity programs. Anything new and interesting happening in this field at the moment?
I never reject people if they ask me to contribute some of my work to their organization. My last contribution was for MindOut – an organization that supports LGBT people experiencing mental health issues. It was a jewelry piece called “Rainbow Heart” that was offered as a raffle price in exchange for donations. The winner of the raffle was chosen randomly. We raised around 2000 through this raffle. It was marvelous and I’m very happy about that.
The funny thing was that when I started to work on “Rainbow Heart” I thought it will be a small jewelry piece. But it kept growing during its creation and turned out to be more of a wearable sculpture. That is typical for me, when I start to work on some piece, I never know what size it will have when it will be finished.
You are known as a big supporter of LGBT community and queer culture. Besides of taking part in this kind of charity event, one of the most known and significant things that you do in this field is your regular event Alternative Miss World. Do you have plans for it in the near future?
Yes, I have been doing Alternative Miss World since 1972.We have had 14 events, the last one that was called “Psychedelic Peace” that happened in 2018 in the historical Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Russian artist Andrey Bartenev took the pageant crown. He was a long Alternative Miss World participant. Andrey began in 1995, so it took a while before he won the pageant.
But at the end of the day Alternative Miss World is not just a regular pageant where everything is mostly about getting the crown. It’s more about using your imagination like you never did before. It is a very alternative event. Even now after all these years it is considered to be underground. The next Alternative Miss World will take place most likely in 2022 and it will be a 50 years anniversary event.
What would Shakespeare think if he would have seen an event like yours in his theatre?
He would have loved it. All these events are absolutely unrehearsed, loud and rude with all the things that you don’t have to do on stage and this is just what Shakespeare have done in his time. We actually had two events in the Globe Theatre and I remember that at the first one the theatre attendants were very nervous about it since they didn’t know what to expect. But at the end of the evening they told me that this was just what Shakespeare would have loved.
Beside art, yoga is your other passion in life. Do you still practice it?
Yes, I am a qualified yoga teacher, I don’t give many lessons now because of the COVID-19 situation. Also yoga is very seductive and it’s really hard to combine doing yoga lessons with art, it takes too much time.
What does a normal day look like for you?
When I’m at the countryside I usually wake up around 8 o’clock and do an hour of yoga, then I go to the studio and work through the day. I love to work in the day light. In the early evening I go for a walk along the canal and over the hills and then come back.
My whole lifestyle changed after I moved to the country. Before, when I lived in London, I worked all day and then went out with friends in the evening. Now I see my friends and socialize much more when I go to London, because I’m working all the time when I’m in the country.
Seems to be a perfectly balanced lifestyle. Thank you, Andrew, for this interesting talk. It was a pleasure. Wish you great health and massive creative achievements.
Thank you, it was a pleasure.