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Profile: Andy Summers: Mysterious Barricades

July 8, 2014 by Fabrik in Art, Photography, Profile with 0 Comments

THINGS OUTSIDE YOU ARE PROJECTIONS OF WHAT’S INSIDE YOU, AND WHAT’S INSIDE YOU IS A PROJECTION OF WHAT’S OUTSIDE. SO WHEN YOU STEP INTO THE LABYRINTH OUTSIDE YOU, AT THE SAME TIME YOU’RE STEPPING INTO THE LABYRINTH INSIDE.

—HARUKI MURAKAMI

Rain by Andy Summers

Rain by Andy Summers

AS LONG AS ANDY SUMMERS has been a visual artist, he has been drawn to the mysterious and surreal, the otherness of the other, and the unknowable in the unknown. The unfamiliar throws up barricades to the strange, and frees the artistic sensibility to see in a way that only the stranger can see, free from context and conditioning, lending vision to the blind observer.

In his photographic practice, Andy Summers has sought out this dialectic. Nights after concerts, nights on the road, he has headed out into the midnight black of Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, London, or Rome, exploring the world with his camera in hand, capturing the unusual, the odd, the exotic, and the remarkable moment, and transforming his perception of these moments into his own artistic vision. In his unique visual interpretation, the changing environment and culture comes into focus as Andy Summers captures a raw moment, an immediate feeling, scaling the obstructing walls of culture and seeing into the essence of the other world.

As Andy Summers evolved from his early influences of Diane Arbus, William Klein, Lee Friedlander, Ralph Gibson, Man Ray and the Surrealists, his eye was drawn to the demanding imagery of the Japanese Provoke School, and by the likes of Daido Moriyama, Shomei Tomatsu and Masahisa Fukase. A long time student of Zen philosophy, he traveled extensively throughout Japan and China, and his own practice began to evolve into a distinct visual vocabulary. His imagistic strength and tone embraced the freedom of the tenets of black and white Japanese Provoke photography, and the idea of seeking the enigmatic and capturing the ambiguous, rather than the constraints of the representative.

It was like discovering atonal music, breaking conventional harmonies to bring forth images that are challenging and provocative. In his evolving practice, Andy Summers was excited by the idea of the anti-photo, of violating photographic boundaries. He was drawn to the aesthetic freedom from making a social statement, and embraced the creation of images that posed open-ended questions. He was greatly impacted by the avant-garde sensibility of Daido Moriyama and his book “Bye, Bye Photography.” In fact, he met Moriyama one night in Tokyo over dinner. Not much was communicated at the table, since Moriyama spoke little English. After dinner, everyone went on their way, and Andy headed out into the night to take pictures.

Downstairs by Andy Summers

Downstairs by Andy Summers

Jazz Alley by Andy Summers

Jazz Alley by Andy Summers

Rounding a corner, his camera poised for a shot, he saw Moriyama on the same street, his camera also poised, taking a shot. For a moment, the two men laughed in mutual recognition, and then went their separate ways, alone again with their cameras.

One of Andy Summers’ favorite places to shoot is the brightly lit district of Shinjuku in Tokyo, with its endless neon lights and signs. He ventures out at midnight, wandering the seedy streets, past the many sex clubs, through miniature drinking holes just large enough for three or four people, through the narrow alleys, shooting adver- tisements offering everything for sale, seeking and capturing the quality of strangeness and ambiguity of the night, in the deepest registers of black.

One dark Tokyo winter night, shooting an upcoming documentary about his life, Andy Summers heard the sounds of “Every Breath You Take” drifting into the snow covered street from a tiny karaoke bar. Andy and his film crew went inside, to see a group of young drunken partiers, singing to the Police song at the top of their lungs. Andy was still bundled up from the cold and no one recognized him as he went on stage, grabbed a mic and sang along. When the song ended, he removed his hood and the place went crazy as they recognized who he was. Cinema Libre is releasing the film, titled Can’t Stand Losing You, this summer.

Elvis by Andy Summers

Elvis by Andy Summers

Chance glimpses into strange worlds around the globe, intersecting with the mysterious other: these things inspire Andy Summers. It’s like living life with more intensity, experiencing a place with more depth and feeling. People on the street often look at him like he’s mad, shooting a rag hanging off of a pole, or a bottle cast away on the sidewalk, but pulling energy from the enigmatic is what he enjoys most. It becomes a visual vocabulary of objects without seeming purpose, focal points that obstruct rather than inform, fragments of a moment, random but intimate. Andy Summers seeks the energy within the ambiguous and alienating, rather than from that which seeks to define.

The process is always a solitary one: the act of being out in the night, tapping into the internal voice, reacting to things as they appear and capturing those feelings, like a visual journal of the inner perception.

Crate by Andy Summers

Crate by Andy Summers

Andy Summers continues to explore the world through his artistic sensibility. He loves the process now as much as the first day he began roaming the streets with camera in hand. He has never grown tired of the hunt, nor of the labyrinth inside.

As this year’s Honorary Guest, Andy Summers will be exhibiting his photography entitled: “Mysterious Barricades,” during the Photo Independent Art Fair, April 25-27, 2014. 

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About Fabrik

Fernando is an L.A. based multimedia artist working in traditional, digital, and video, currently on sabbatical in Chicago. Pining for the warm and smoggy air of the Hollywood scene.

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