Andy Cropper is an oil painter based in Sheffield. His work explores the everyday spaces and places we pass through without a second thought, looking for something extraordinary peeping through the cracks. Odds on, you will recognise some of the places he paints, so next time you are passing through, stop and take another look.

How did you get started with painting?

I came to Sheffield in the early 90s to study at Hallam, on the Painting and Printmaking BA. In the space of what should’ve been my second and third year, I went to the United States. When I came back, the work that I wanted to do – painting – bore no relationship to what I was doing beforehand, which was really quite dry and cold installation work.

In 2008, I was in the Winter Gardens painting portraits, where the pop-up shop is. The response was brilliant. I got several commissions from it. I was also the first artist in the Sheffield Showcase on The Moor. So I did a load of work about The Moor, just looking around. It was very different to the portrait work I was doing, but it did tie in to a lot of work I was making after I left college.

How do photos inform the work you do?

I’m always carrying my camera with me, looking around on the off chance that something will capture my eye. It could be objects, it could be spaces, the dynamics of people. What I’m looking for are things that have a tension and a mystery to them, something I don’t understand.

What’s your working process?

The process is essentially eight layers. Most of it is actually scaffolding. I start with a basic pencil line in a grid, transferring and transposing across. And then, because of the quality of oil paint – it’s not as opaque a medium as you’d think it would be – as time goes on, the paint becomes more and more translucent, so a lot of the effects you’re seeing are actually the modelling that’s taken place underneath.

In the blurb on your website, you say you’re “not a painter of dreams, desires, distractions or romances”. It’s quite an interesting way of thinking about it.

I can understand why a lot of people do enjoy that. Their everyday… they don’t want to stay within it, they want to escape and look elsewhere. But I think the way culture is at the moment, it’s forever looking elsewhere, rather than looking at what is going on underneath our noses. That’s what I’m trying to get to grips with – what is actually being avoided, and looking in those spaces specifically to see if there is something I can find.

Some of your pieces have more of a political edge, as well.

By being an artist, you are pointing things out and you are inherently being political. I guess on the social realist level of what I’m doing, again it can’t be anything but political, because by painting it I’m passing comment on what’s around me. But I’m not necessarily being straightforward. Yeah, you can read certain things into that, but it’s not necessarily what I’m putting into it. They’re open to interpretation.

Tell us about the exhibition you’ve got coming up at APG Gallery, Uncertain Spaces: Non-Places and Non-Spaces.

Basically, we’re forever in the state of going in between, but always looking outside of that. You go into town to go to a shop, and almost everything else in between is so familiar, but also so banal and mundane, that it just gets ignored. This project is me engaging with that, trying to come out with investigations of spaces that we don’t want to look at, and trying to find something within that. Already, I’ve loads to work with. I’m expanding my scope too, because I’m usually dealing with London Road and The Moor. So my plan is to go bigger, but still be Sheffield focused.

Uncertain Spaces: Non-Places and Non-Spaces will run from 31 March to 11 April at APG Works, Sidney Street.

‘Posters’ and ‘Mist’ are available as prints via Andy’s website, printed by Go To Design.

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Sam Walby