Would you like to add an editable biography for Andrew Christofides? You can add one here.
Painter Andrew Christofides was born in Cyprus, in 1946. He has lived most of his life in Australia. Christofides trained at the Byam Shaw School and the Chelsea Art School in London, and was awarded the Abbey Major Scholarship from the British Academy in Rome in 1978. His abstract works have been exhibited in twenty-four solo and over eighty group exhibitions in Australia, New York, London and Rome. As a lecturer, he has taught at numerous institutions in Britain and Australia, and has been the Head of Drawing Studies at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, in Sydney since 2003.
Christofides migrated to Australia with his family in April 1951, a year after his father had emigrated in search of work. They settled in Wollongong, New South Wales, in 1952. Although he had a keen interest in drawing and painting from an early age, Christofides was encouraged to pursue a more commercial line of work to support his family. After leaving school, he was employed at John Lysaght, a large steel firm in Wollongong.
In 1967, at the age of twenty-one, Christofides enrolled in a Bachelor of Economics (Commerce) at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. During this time, he was also experimenting with drawing and painting, but considered himself an amateur artist. He was inspired by the work of Paul Klee and by the art culture in Sydney. He also gained inspiration from visits to art galleries, cinema and music concerts.
Upon completion of his degree, Christofides was employed as a research analyst for the Commonwealth Taxation Commission in Canberra, in 1971. By the end of 1973 he was becoming increasingly unhappy with working in Canberra and at the beginning of 1974 he left, travelling to Cyprus, to seek a broader perspective of the world by returning to the country of his birth. He planned to move to London to further his studies in economics, but on arriving there Christofides was strongly influenced by the art he saw, particularly at the National Gallery. He applied to the Byam Shaw School of Drawing and Painting in London in 1974 and attended there until 1975. He was then accepted into the Chelsea School of Art in London, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in 1978.
During this time, Christofides came under the influence of a number of British 'Systems’ artists and his work became increasingly mathematical. In 1975, his work became abstract. Christofides experimented with using mathematical procedures and rules (for instance, the toss of a die) to dictate the form and placement of elements in his work. During the 1970s, he used the colours of the De Stijl movement, while favouring grey backgrounds for their impersonal neutrality, as seen in Random Game Sequence (1977). The form and colour used in Christofides’ works are intended to be self-contained and emotionally neutral, so that the audience is free to interpret his works in different ways.
Christofides’ final year exhibition at the Chelsea School of Art Gallery in 1978 was well received. He lived and worked in Italy during 1978-79 after which he was offered the Picker Fellowship in Painting at Kingston Polytechnic in London. After the fellowship, in 1981, he became a part-time lecturer at the Canterbury College of Art in Kent. Christofides’ art continued to be well received in London and he had a number of successful solo and group exhibitions there. However, the early 1980s saw the collapse of the United Kingdom economy under Margaret Thatcher, and Christofides returned to Australia in 1982.
On returning to Australia, Christofides found the Australian art scene of the early 1980s dominated by Post Modernism, and felt out of step with prevailing trends. His art lessened in severity as an unconscious response to this climate, and he began to work more intuitively. His interest in maps and mapping led him to incorporate cartographic elements and strategies into his works. For example, maps represented the world diagrammatically and schematically rather than mimetically. The scattering of land masses across a map would dictate the positions of geometric elements within an artwork. In addition, grids became an important underlying structure, with the orthogonal positioning of elements aligned to the edges. His paintings continued to use mathematical systems to generate abstract forms, but he increased the complexity of the works by devising painted relief constructions mounted on the walls. From this time, his work also included diagonal divisions, which were intended to increase the visual complexities of the work.
Christofides had long been dissatisfied with the reductivist aspect of Minimalism. Conscious that his work contained large, empty spaces, he sought to create interest by applying paint very thinly as an expressive gesture. This subtle gesture indicated that Christofides’ work was gaining Romantic attributes, despite retaining its geometric appearance.
In 1985 Christofides’ work was included in the exhibition 'The Subject of Painting’, guest curated by Paul McGillick and held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Christofides notes this exhibition as a key point in the revival of abstraction in Australia (pers. comm., 2010).A year later (1986), Christofides curated an exhibition at The Painters Gallery, Darlinghurst, titled 'Pure Abstraction’. This exhibition received a negative review, but reaffirmed the viability of abstract art for Australian viewers.
In 1988, Christofides became a full-time lecturer at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales in Sydney, where he also completed his Master of Fine Arts in 1991. Christofides was first represented by the (then) King Street Gallery on Burton in 1997 (now the King Street Gallery on William, Darlinghurst, Sydney), and continues to be represented there. In this same year, Robert Steele (formerly of the Anima Gallery in Adelaide, now of the Robert Steele Gallery in New York) also first represented Christofides. Many of the works now held in collections were produced during this period, including the Geometric Variations series of paintings (held at National Gallery of Australia, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and Bendigo Art Gallery).
In the early 1990s Christofides’ work showed simpler, more classical styles and forms, emulating the concepts behind the monumental, classical Renaissance paintings that he admired. Gradually, his work became more meaningful, both in a literal and metaphorical sense. When his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1998, he became interested in his cultural background via his mother’s remembered experiences.
The passing of his mother in 2003 led Christofides to enquire more about his cultural heritage, especially the history of Cyprus. This was explored in the works in his exhibition, titled 'Odyssey’, held at the King Street Gallery on Burton in 2004. Strong memories of his childhood were depicted using warm, sensuous colours, though still adhering to the forms of geometric shapes, chequerboard patterns and solid slabs of colour.
From this time onward, the colours in Christofides’ work continued to become richer and more vibrant. Blues, oranges and yellows were predominant, as they represented the idealised colours of Cyprus and the Mediterranean, where he has travelled frequently.
He continues to have regular exhibitions at the King Street Gallery on William and the Robert Steele Gallery, as well as at other prominent galleries in Australia and overseas. In 2010 Christofides was living and working in Sydney.
De Lorenzo, CatherineNote: Hutchings, PhillipaNote: