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Andrew Styan is a media artist researching strategies for shifting public engagement with contemporary social and ecological challenges. In a world that is becoming increasingly polarised the ‘common ground’ needed for meaningful discussion on these issues is diminishing.  While the 2015 Brexit decision and the 2016 US presidential election are two obvious outcomes of this polarisation, at all levels there are signs of increasing nationalism in response to globalisation and migration; a growing divide between left and right; increasing economic, cultural and geographic inequality; and a fundamental denial of mankind’s interdependence with nature. Andrew Styan’s practice is focussed on ways that art can rebuild the common ground by helping to make sense of these issues or placing them in a context that does not reinforce the polarisation.

Reflecting a former career as a metallurgist in the steel industry and lifelong interests in nature, photography and science, his practice utilises electronics, computer coding, interactivity and mechanical devices to create installations, videos and kinetic objects that reference natural processes and scientific principles.  Accessibility is essential to his practice with works premised on seemingly simple concepts and representations that engage aesthetically but reveal their complexity and deeper meaning through interactivity and exploration. Early works adopted the traditional strategies of raising awareness of the urgency and impact of climate change or critiquing our political and social inaction. Recent investigations into the psychology behind the individual and collective inability to tackle climate change has led to a consideration of the common causes underlying many contemporary issues beyond just climate change and the agency of contemporary art practices in addressing them. Subsequent works are increasingly socially engaged in approach – striving to promote inclusive discussion rather than ideological positions.

This philosophy is exemplified in the group exhibition Every Breath (2016), which was developed as a discursive environment for exploring the idea that the air is the medium that connects us to each other and the planet. Two works were created that proposed extremes of physical scale and conceptual scope for the exhibition and framed the works of the other contributing artists.  In Life Support System air is the medium for making sense of the global scale relationship between the systems of nature, humanity and economics, whereas Catch Your Breath makes visible the beauty and ephemerality of an individual breath while also suggesting the idea of the collective breath of the thousands of participants.

Achievements:

  • 2017   University Medal, University of Newcastle, and graduate speaker at the 2017 graduation ceremony
  • 2016   Guest curator – Every Breath exhibition at The Lock-Up, Newcastle
  • 2016   Exhibited at Newcastle Art Gallery; A Dirty Business: Devine, Styan and Tilley
  • 2015   Personal study tour, “Art and Action in Paris at COP21”, United Nations Paris climate talks
  • 2015   Invited to exhibit at Stills Gallery, Sydney
  • 2015   Awarded the Dr Harold Schenberg Fellowship at the  Hatched 2015 national exhibition of graduate artists, PICA Gallery, Perth
  • 2014   Student Art Prize, UoN Services Travelling Scholarship

Education:

  • 2017-   PhD candidate (FineArt) University of Newcastle
  • 2016   Bachelor of Fine Art (First Class Honours and University Medal), Universities of Newcastle (Aus) & Dundee (UK, 1 semester)
  • 1982   Bachelor of Metallurgy (First Class Honours), University of Newcastle

Solo Projects:

Selected Group Exhibitions:

**  also exhibition curator
*     collaborative work

Collections:

Works are held in the collections of BDO Australia and Australian Wool Network.

Commentary:

“Andrew Styan has a rare gift for making complex issues visible”

“Coal is such a dominant agent in climate change and environmental discourse, but most of us understand it only in the abstract. In Styan’s installation, coal is both demystified, and imbued with symbolism and power.”

“Andrew Styan’s work displayed a power in its simplicity and a sense of autobiography and a deep knowledge about a place, but without sentimentality. The three main elements of his video, light, sound and sculpture installation collectively envelop the viewer, creating a ‘device of wonder’. On seeing the work the judges felt an immediate urge to see more by this artist.”

*Amy Barrett-Lennard, Director, PICA; Lisa Slade, Assistant Director Artistic Programs, Art Gallery of South Australia; and Ted Snell, Director, UWA Cultural Precinct

  • 2014   Featured artist in the University of Newcastle YAK student magazine for April, 2014
  • 2013   Featured in the Hunter Valley and North Coast “Town and Country” magazine, June 2013
  • 2013   David Broker**, Exhibition catalogue entry, Queensland Centre for Photography, May 2013

“Andrew Styan is a true romantic expressing an interest in nature that is worthy of Wordsworth or Friedrich. …. Styan’s photographs return his audience to a sense of awe that the Romantics attempted to express through their work in the 19th century.”

**  Director, Canberra Contemporary Art Space


Art makes a space for belief. And belief makes a space for change.

~ The Canary Project