In memory of Andrew Nawroski 1956-2023
Finding a cover used to be a bit of a slog for copyright reasons without a publisher with a house style, but since finding free images on Pixels and Pixabay the job has become something of a joy. They say Free but we can make a donation and make contact with the artist which makes it personal and pleasurable. That was until I found my latest cover for an upcoming collection on the dark side of birds.
As a lover of art, surrealism in particular, I scoured free sites for an image with non-sentimental bird content. I found a site by surrealist and collagist Andrew Nawroski and was surprised to find him practicing in Newport, South Wales, just across the Severn from my hometown, Bristol. Or I thought he was. I went to his Facebook page to say how much I admired his work and I’d like to use one of his images for my collection. I found he uses the raven motif a lot in his collages and wrote dark poetry so he was definitely the man. In his archives I found collages of Putin from ten years ago, so many images of animal and human life mashed up and executed in surprising ways. Who was this artist?
The terrible and shocking thing was when I got to his page I found tributes and RIPs to him only hours old and still coming in. When I dug deeper I found out that facing homelessness in January, possibly due to some social services bungling and lack of communication, he’d actually been without a home for three months and was found unresponsive on a park bench in a churchyard on March 1 this year in the very week I found his image. How could this be?
It’s impossible to accept that a celebrated and talented artist like Andrew who’d been featured in the local press before and had started up a collective and worked on significant community projects could slip through the net in the fifth richest country in the world. Andrew was a prolific and consummate artist who would have thrived with a patron in a previous century. He was a true, true artist in that he probably couldn’t do anything else. I don’t know. I didn’t know him but it seems that art was his whole life, his reason for being. His work is striking, funny, bold, bright and dark inspired by the old masters. His drawings are finely wrought and detailed despite his reputedly huge hands. Apparently, in his studio shop he could behave like Dylan Moran in Black Books and say to browsers something like, Are you going to buy something or are you here to waste my time? He was a master of his own art. I’d like to have known him. His legacy is in his work and in his children. For what it’s worth I’ll be dedicating the next book to him.
Vale Andrew Nawroski.