An exhibition organised by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and The British Council.
Sponsored by Banco Urquijo

Contexts of the Permanent Collection Nş 9 is focused around the painting Lights V. The Pier Pavilion of 1973 in the collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and brings together for the first time the seven works which make up the series Lights, painted by Michael Andrews between 1970 and 1974.

Michael Andrews (1928-1995) was an artist whose roots were firmly established within the British figurative tradition and who is normally linked with the so-called School of London, a mixed group of artists who shared an interest in the depiction of the human form as well as a complete rejection of academic realism. In addition to Andrews, all the other artists in the group - Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff - are well represented in the collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

The title of the series, Lights, alludes to Rimbaudıs Illuminations and takes its starting point from the Zen notion of freedom which implies the loss of the ego. As the artist himself explained, the series, ³makes a reference to the necessity of freeing oneself from the ideas which we have about ourselves. About what we call the ego². Andrews painted the solitary progression of a balloon - symbolising the journey of the soul in search of liberation - across empty landscapes, modern cities and agreeable coastal resorts before it arrives at the beach and the calm sea.

All these images, charged with poetic and psychological meaning, invite the spectator to reflect on the seemingly unavoidable precariousness of modern life. To achieve a greater metaphorical emphasis, Andrews wanted to endow the paintings with an ethereal quality, and to achieve this he dusted the paint onto the unprimed canvas rather than applying it with a brush. He thus succeeded in conveying the sensation of a mirage, heightening the sense of distancing which he wanted to transmit through the image of the balloon suspended in the air.

The series of paintings makes up a sequence in which each image evolves from the previous one: Lights I: Out of Doors is the starting point and begins with an enjoyable and lighthearted experience, floating across the English countryside in a balloon. In Lights II: The Ship Engulfed the balloon represents the individual conscience swallowed up by the agitation of urban life. In Lights III: The Black Balloon this feeling results in a rather more serious experience in which we see the balloon as a heavy, leaden objects which acts as a metaphor for the effort required to liberate the ego.

The central part of the series consists of three works whose backdrop is the coastal landscape of southern England, namely Lights IV: The Pier and the Road, Lights V: The Pier Pavilion, and Lights VI: The Spa. The pleasure pavilions which appear in these paintings symbolise the place in which the being, liberated from its own ego, can now connect with others. The egotistical obsession of the self has started to overcome itself, and for this reason the balloon is not visible in these three paintings and is only present in a symbolic way outside the composition. The series ends with the most thought-provoking of the images. The balloon-ego appears in Lights VII as a shadow on the beach on which it might be about to land. This last painting implies resignation and is to some extent a return to the starting point, given that the artist has realised that the search for enlightenment is a useless one. Enlightenment is not to be found: it appears without warning.

Exhibition information

Title: Contexts of the Permanent Collection Nş 9. Michael Andrews. Lights

Dates: 20 June to 1 October

Organisers: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and The British Council

Sponsor: Banco Urquijo

Curator: Andrea Rose and Tomàs Llorens

Coordination: Paloma Alarcó, Curator of Modern Painting, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Venue: Contexts Room, First Floor

Opening Hours: From Tuesdays to Sundays, 10.00 to 19.00. Ticket office closes at 18.30. Closed on Mondays.

Entrance charge: Included in the ticket price for the Permanent Collection