Brook Andrew is a graduate of the University of Western Sydney and the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales. Andrew has exhibited extensively both around Australia and overseas and is known for his neon work, public art, printmaking and photography.
Brook Andrew was born in Sydney on 3 April 1970, the second of Barbara and Trevor Andrew’s four children. His first years were spent with his family in inner city Enmore and later, western Sydney’s Blackett. When he was four years old his family moved to Werrington, also in western Sydney. In 1988, after finishing his secondary studies at Cambridge Park High School, Andrew enrolled in Aquatic Resource Management at James Cook University, Rockhampton, Queensland, but discontinued after six months.
In 1991 Andrew enrolled in Interior Design at the University of Technology Sydney but after a month transferred to Visual Arts at the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Nepean campus. In his undergraduate years, Andrew concentrated on interdisciplinary studies and photo-media and in a September 2007 interview with the author he identified Chris Fortescue, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Anne Graham and Terry Hayes as the most influential of his UWS teachers. In his graduating year, 1993, his wall-based text piece Naraga Yarmble Bungalgaragara was awarded the Mary Alice Evatt Prize at Artspace for the best final year artwork in the annual Bachelor of Visual Arts students’ exhibitions at UWS’s Macarthur and Nepean campuses. In 1994 he was included in Felicity Fenner’s and Anne Loxley’s survey of emerging Sydney-based artists, 'Fresh Art’, (S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney) and the following year Judy Annear included him in 'Perspecta’, Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney. Ken Watson, Assistant Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, AGNSW, was responsible in 1996 for that institution’s acquisition of Andrew’s colour photograph Chip on the Shoulder (1996), the first state gallery to collect his work.
His 1996 work Sexy and Dangerous was first exhibited at the 1998 RAKA Award, Ian Potter Museum University of Melbourne, where it was awarded the prize. This marked the beginning of a new level of recognition for Andrew’s work; he was subsequently invited to join Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne and in 1999 the National Gallery of Victoria acquired a copy of Sexy and Dangerous for its permanent collection. In 1999 Andrew completed a Master of Fine Arts at College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Paddington, Sydney.
Whether in photography, neon, sculpture or screen-print, Andrew explores power relationships in society, especially in race relations and globalism. The action of seeing recurs in his work, as do Wiradjuri patterns and language.
Andrew has an extensive itinerary of international residencies including Gasworks and Goldsmith College, London University (2000) Sanskriti, New Delhi, India, Asialink residency (2000-01), School of Art, University of Hawaii (2002), Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania (2006), the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Galeria Metropolitana, and Centro Matucana 100, Santiago, Chile (2006).
His public art projects include 22 neon boomerangs Wilbing (to fly) 1999-2000 at Walama Forecourt, Sydney International Airport Terminal and the monumental wooden, bronze and LEDSeven Spears 2000 at Sydney International Shooting Centre, Cecil Park (commissioned by Sydney Olympic Co-ordination Authority) and a large suspended animated neon sculpture in the foyer of The Queensland Museum, Brisbane. Andrew also designed the props and projected sets for the Indigenous component to the opening ceremonies for both the Rugby World Cup (2003, Sydney) and the Commonwealth Games (2006, Melbourne).
In 2001 Andrew was awarded a two-year fellowship from the Australia Council for the Arts. This fellowship was to access national film and photographic archives of Aboriginal people in NSW in collaboration with the NSW Aboriginal communities. The projects’ aim was to build better relationships between Aboriginal people and archive institutions through the development of protocols and stimulation of debate, with the end result for Andrew being the creation of new work.
Andrew’s practice extends to curatorship and public discourse. At djamu Gallery, The Australian Museum at Customs House, Sydney, he exhibited museum objects in 'Blak Beauty’ (1999) and 'Menthen. Queue Here’ (2000), the first was a celebration of the aesthetic beauty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander artworks and objects, the second was a sculptural display of Indigenous shields from various regions of Australia. Aggrieved by the lack of serious discussion of Aboriginal art, Andrew conceived the seminar series, “Blakatak: Program of Thought”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 2005-06. Andrew’s work has attracted the attention of the cultural theorist, Nikos Papastergiardis who wrote “Crossed Territories: Indigenous Cosmopolitan”, 2006/2007 for the exhibition catalogue for 'Brook Andrew, Eye to Eye’ at Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2007 and Marcia Langton, who wrote the 2005 essay “High Excellent Technical Flavour”, for the catalogue 'Brook Andrew : Hope & Peace’, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi, Melbourne, 2005.
His inclusion in 2006 in Linda Michael’s '21st Century Modern: the Adelaide Biennale of Australia’ coincided with a spate of international exhibitions including 'Trans Versa’, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Santiago, Chile, 'High Tide: Currents in Contemporary Australian Art’, National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland and Vilnius, Lithuania (2006) and 'Den Haag Sculptuur 2007: De OverKant/Down Under’, The Hague, The Netherlands (2007). Monash University Museum of Art’s (MUMA) staged the survey exhibition, 'Brook Andrew Eye to Eye’, curated by Geraldine Barlow in 2007 and toured to Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, Sydney 2007 and the John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University of Technology, Perth 2008. In a 2007 telephone interview with the author, Judith Ryan, the curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Australia described Andrew as a “multidisciplinary or new media artist, Brook consistently masters the medium while always making something provocatively beautiful. He is constantly pushing the boundaries of the beauty of the medium. For instance, with Sexy and Dangerous , the work is printed on duraclear and is hung out from the wall. He invents the medium as he goes along and he is always seeking to keep re-inventing himself”.
Since 2004 Andrew has lived and worked in Melbourne, Victoria and since 2007 has been represented by Melbourne’s Tolarno Galleries.