Born in 1933, Andrew Johnstone was educated at Marlborough College, Strasbourg University and St. John’s Oxford, plus two terms at the Ruskin School of Art. He served in Egypt with the Scots Guards and joined the Foreign Service in he was posted to Lebanon, where he learned Arabic, then to Aden, Oman, Syria, Pakistan, Cambodia and Ireland.
At all his foreign postings Andrew Johnstone painted and drew. He had a one-man show in Rawalpindi with the British Council and exhibited in Belfast and the Royal Irish Academy when he was in Ireland. He retired in 1973 to a smallholding in West Cornwall with his wife, where he painted until his death in 2015.
Painting from a series of ‘half a dozen or so’ themes, usually from the ancient world, his techniques and idioms often stem from the modern artists he admired: Roger Hilton, Ben Nicholson and William Scott. In the last decade of his life, he regularly exhibited his paintings, and occasionally his sculptures, at the Islington Art Fair and the 20/21 British Art Fair, as well as having a series of one-man shows in London, and at Cadogan Contemporary. In 1989 he was the subject of a documentary on ITV.
“My own work is domestic and small scale. It is for looking at and enjoying in a home environment… just to be there and to feed the spirit and imagination. Balm for the soul, if you like. If a painting of mine does that and, most importantly, goes on doing that, then I am happy: it is a good painting as far as I am concerned. I am not setting out to build a career – it is a bit late for that anyway – but to let my imagination wander over what I have seen, years ago or yesterday, and to let my mind and hands synthesise that into a painting or, more rarely these days, a sculpture. This will probably not resemble at all what I have been looking at; it will be some new creation that comes from my imagination… But I also go off at perhaps ridiculous tangents when something catches my eye or amuses me. Why not?
For me, painting, or at least making, is not an interest or a pastime: it is a compulsion.”