Andy Best’s practice, which includes sculpture, painting, and photography, examines the complexities of the individual’s relationship to culture, misinterpreted through a subjective, often mystical, lens.
Growing up surrounded by deserts in southern Australia, spending his youth sailing amongst the islands at the same geographic location as those of Gulliver’s Travels, Best had an early interest in the split between direct and mediated experiences. It should be noted that the films and culture of Australia generally – from Ned Kelly to Mad Max - features recurring ad-hoc reinterpretations of European and North American cultural tropes.
An early work Pauline recreated the seminal video game Donkey Kong, made from life-sized building materials that at the time surrounded the artist’s studio. As both an overtly masculine orange modernist sculpture, and as a stage devoid of protagonists (save for the title’s reference to the game’s object) the work reflected upon our underlying attitudes towards life, love, risk, and death.
Best’s installations often function as clues, or sets, which activate common tropes, seemingly offering up new solutions to problematic archetypes, like horror films or utopias. They also use the geographic and historic contexts of their galleries as integral parts of the works. Paradise (2004), a post apocalyptic wasteland (featuring automated photocopiers, a glowing bubble tea, horror masks, and mimetic hand-made weeds) reflected on the desolation of a surrounding office culture, its magic realism unmistakably bringing forward concerns about time, mortality and formal indicators (such as navigation beacon codes) in making sense of one’s present location.
The links between magic, formalism, hallucination and the afterlife has continued in other photographs and installations. The widely reproduced Fall Series (2005) depicts urban individuals in cinematic, dramatic free-falls. With equal reference to Die Hard, fashion photography, and religious iconography, viewers are presented at once with an intense portrait of our place in the contemporary moment. The fake chain restaurant Knox Burger (2005), its surface overgrown by jungle vines, revealed cinematic dioramas – made from lumps of solid cocaine. Other paintings, drawings and sculptures further blurred the distinction between media impressions, and the fleeting intensity of those from memory.
These complicated connections became more important with the Oom series (2008 – ongoing). The entity Oom is drawn from a seemingly overwhelming number of sources: any use of the three letters O O and M in literature, history, television, or online culture. Wilfully misinterpreted into a single narrative, in Best’s project Oom forms a timeless, malevolent force (a reincarnating alter-ego perhaps) which creates hallucinogenic paintings and sculptures. Not constrained to one individual, Oom influences a related counter-cultural group, whose history is depicted in installations of the project’s music, architecture, photography, and other artefacts.