Andrew Moncrief doesn’t sit still for long. Raised in Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley, he made great use of the region’s natural splendour during his youth, spending much of his time biking, skiing and swimming. Today, that innate desire to move shapes how the Montreal-based painter makes his art. Working mostly on large-scale canvases, he treats creation like a sport.
“I’m very active in the studio,” the recent Concordia graduate says. “I walk around a lot, looking at the work from different angles, and tend to use big gestures and broad arm strokes. I like to get a bit aggressive, and I’m always very messy.”
After a brief stint in his local college’s art program, Moncrief landed in Halifax intent on continuing his studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design but quickly found the city wasn’t for him. He had his sights fixed on Montreal but opted for a year studying French in Trois-Rivières before making the jump. It seemed like everything was falling into place, but when his father was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, he put his Montreal dream on hold and returned to BC.
The whole time he was looking for the right place to be, he was also struggling with who he was. “I didn’t come out until after I moved to Montreal,” he says. “After my dad passed away, it was like being thrown down a flight of stairs. I didn’t have the guts to tell him while he was still alive because there just didn’t seem to be the right time. But after it was over, it made me realize life is too short to fight a battle that’s not worth fighting.”
Now, happily partnered and freshly graduated, the hunky 26-year-old is set on establishing himself in the art world. Working with self-portraiture (a holdover from art school, when he couldn’t afford models) his works have an uneasy air to them. Creating mostly from photographs, he often chooses the least flattering images, a stark contrast to contemporary “selfie” culture, where people shoot hundreds of pics hoping to capture themselves at their best.
“There’s a level of self-deprecation involved in choosing the images I want to work from,” he says. “I’m interested in an unconventional beauty that’s kind of grotesque. A lot of non-art people wouldn’t put my stuff in their living room, but that’s not who I’m interested in creating for.”