Visit The Caravanserai – Andy Coughlan Exhibit

On display October 6 – 27, 2012.

ISSUE Magazine: October 2012 | Story by Lluvia Peveto. Photos by Michelle Cate.

Artist Andy Coughlan

ANDY COUGHLAN’S FINGERS GLIDE and dip across layers of wet paint, gently tracing a path along the nubbled surface of canvas.

Although the August afternoon heat beads unforgivingly on Coughlan and the tenants of the second floor of the Art Studio, Inc., the Brighton, England, native continues undeterred. He’s on deadline.

On Oct. 6, Coughlan will unveil the culmination of a year’s work at the art studio during his opening reception, “Caravanserai: A Solo Exhibition.”

The free event, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m., will feature live music, dancers and poets, as well as an appearance by the Bánh Mon Renegade Street Food truck, owned by Monica and John Cobb.

Free refreshments will be provided by The Art Studio, Inc.

Attendees are encouraged to immerse themselves in the atmosphere by donning Eastern garb reminiscent of travelers who once frequented the binns (caravanserai) during treks on the Silk Road across Eurasia. Afterward, revelers can keep the night alive with a celebratory afterparty at Tequila Rok.

Andy CoughlanDesigned to attract those who don’t frequentgallery openings, the show will center on one thing alone — down to the first step across the threshold.

“The way you enter the exhibition will force you to look at the studio space differently because of how everything will be arranged. That way the work, the environment and the participants will be interacting with each other, creating the show — the art — together. It’s an attempt to redefine one’s initial perception of the world around them, in the immediate sense,” Coughlan said.

The collection will feature about 30 pieces including abstract and semi-abstracted paintings.  But most of all, he will focus on “his women.”

Coughlan is well-known in Southeast Texas art circles for highly-stylized portraits of robust — almost Rubenesque — women in classical settings: “Leda and the Swan” of Greek mythology, “The Muses,” and “The Four Seasons,” to name a few. A penchant for highly-controlled brushstrokes and attention to detail has given way to the “celebration of aggressive sensuality in the abstract form,” Coughlan said.

His latest work features lines that twist calligraphically across muted backgrounds. Coughlan has Andy Coughlan paintingdesigned his paintings to unveil themselves to viewers the longer they look at them. Intersecting lines evolve into feminine forms.

Using the process of deconstruction or breaking down the figure — often sketched from vintage photographs or live models — he then reconstructs it in layers, with dominant lines and abstract shapes to redefine its original form. To capture the dynamic of spontaneity, Coughlan preserves some of the raw motion employed in the initial sketches, which prevents overworking the image.

The Orange resident was inspired to develop this technique when he was struck by the layout of a Richard Serra showing at The Menil Collection in Houston. Serra’s show challenged viewers to “redefine their space,” and the phrase struck a chord with Coughlan.

He began to immerse himself in the works of artists that display “aggressive spontaneity,” such as Maria Smits and Willem de Kooning. The evolution of their work challenged him to focus on the process, rather than the end result.

“Each painting develops its own personality, like a woman. When I begin on a new piece, it’s an exploration. Like the first time you fall in love: you’re infatuated. You pursue them; you explore them. It (painting) is absolutely tactile,” Coughlan said.

“Which is how I employ the abstraction: Instead of looking at things in the obvious way, the viewers are able to see the layers underneath. They take part in the process themselves.”

When questioned about the certain meanings behind his art, Coughlan smiles cryptically.

Andy Coughlan - Artist“All art focuses on the nature of existence, really. It’s not just about the figure — although I do come back to it again and again … It’s a sense of connectivity to the human condition — our reactions to the world around us,” he said.

Coughlan is no stranger to the spotlight. His paintings have received awards from Beaumont Art League, The Art Studio, Inc., Texas Artists Museum, Museum of the Gulf Coast, and his original artwork has been exhibited in museums and galleries all along the Gulf Coast.

When not acting as Lamar’s director of student publications, Coughlan designs and edits the

monthly arts magazine ISSUE (a winner of multiple Southeast Texas Press Club awards), creates editorial cartoons for the Beaumont Enterprise, and exhibits paintings in frequent one-man shows.

His English accent can be heard wending its way through the halls of Lamar’s University

Press to the stages of local theaters where he’s played everyone from the hero to the villain. A natural showman who delights in outrageous Broadway productions and the lure of the bright stage lights, he can often be heard belting out show tunes when sketching up an editorial cartoon.

But here — in the studio — his voice sinks to a murmur, as if any ripple of activity might destroy the serene atmosphere he’s helped cultivate.

“I prefer to let my art speak for itself,” Coughlan said, shrugging off any personal inquiries.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter what I say about it, or how I interpret it. The whole purpose of art is tolet others have their own experience with the work. It’s a personal exploration, a challenge to self.”

View examples of Coughlan’s portfolio online at “Caravanserai: A Solo Exhibition” will be on display at the Art Studio Inc., located at 720 Franklin Street in Beaumont, through Oct. 27. For more information, call 409-838-5393.