Andrew Hem‘s paintings explore isolation, when those close to us are gone, leave an empty space, a darkness. Hem is an illustrator and painter and it’s his use of both graffiti techniques and fine art sensibilities that provides the basis for his haunting images of desolation. One can only speculate but Hem’s work is most probably influenced by his difficult childhood.
He was born during his parents flight from Cambodia after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge embarked on a mission to bring the country to the brink of annihilation. They ended up in LA where he grew up in a tough neighbourhood. It was there that he became drawn to the street art scene and from an early age was honing his skills on the walls of LA. From there he moved on to more figurative work and ended up in Art College. Since then he has been busy working as an illustrator and artist creating compositions that are atmospheric, painted in vivid colours and interwoven with richly textured narratives that express his memories, dreams, impressions of the culture he inhabits and the landscape that evokes the life of the spirit.
As you can see from this collection of paintings Hem has an affinity with blue in all its tones; deep aqua, red with blue on top, turquoise, frosty blue, hot purplish blue, grey blue, blue black and so on. Much of the colour is due to his love of water and it’s symbolic meaning as he says himself:
I like water because it feels like it never stays the same. Anything you put in the water never stays in one place. And you know…what’s just like life. You never stay in one place. Nothing ever stays close to you. Things are always gonna drift away, friends are always gonna drift away. I don’t think anything stays whole for that long—besides family and stuff. But other than that, I feel like everything always parts. ‘Cause the ocean is so huge, you know? It’s hard to stay together