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The Bee Paintings of Andrew Tyzack by Janet Waring

The arts have always found inspiration in the bee an unassuming insect that has traditionally symbolised diligence and generosity and found itself the symbol for many houses, guilds and even papal dynasties down the ages. Its industry has provided humankind with the alluring sweetness of honey, its social structure fascinated philosophers, scientists and poets and its pungent sting maintained a healthy respect for this humble hymenopteran.

The bounty offered by bees draws a parallel with the creative spirit, the true artists offers the fruits of their toil for all to partake. I have infant of me such an example. Andrew Tyzack, the artist and beekeeper has recently made a series of drawings and paintings in which he depicts bees with the eye of the poetic naturalist. His regard for his subject and knowledge of apiculture results in a fresh and authentic expression in which a microcosm that reflects on our complex human world is depicted with sophisticated simplicity.

Some of the works are of single bees, others of groups composed in geometries that allude to deeper levels outside the immediate vicinity of bees. Andrew is clearly articulating the fascination that these creatures hold for us. The example in my fortunate possession is that of a Bumblebee in pencil and watercolour. Its singular, delicate and soft rendition contrasts with its literally larger than life menace. This work has a living quality which is, indeed, inherent in all Andrew Tyzack’s animal pictures. This is the element which makes the work moving. Andrew Tyzack instinctively works beyond the purely descriptive with the incision of a poet.

The single bees rendered in pencil on paper have a feeling of humility so very affecting in their expression of solitariness. Beekeeping is a lonely and dedicated pursuit; also true of the one artist where day to day existence can take on a monastic style. Giotto referred to the importance of the dedicated lifestyle and the small subject matter when he wrote: “Do not fail as you go on to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is it will be well worth while and it will do you the world of good”. Andrew Tyzack has successfully used the theme of bees to express something of his own unique and dedicated personality.

Bee Hexagon is the most complex of the bee pictures; there are thirteen hexagons arranged in a radial symmetry with a lone queen bee at the very centre of the arrangement, the whole also being a hexagon. There is a cosmic sense to this infinitely expandable, ordered geometry. This obvious, intelligent composition serves to set in vibration a note which is about bees and their unseen ‘lines’ of communication - a model of interdependency and co-operation which we all recognise. The notion of bee ‘language’ is mysterious and intriguing: Communication is a central theme in bee folklore as beekeepers are obliged to tell any important news of a life and death nature to their hives, thereby paying deference to the bees which, which as pollinators, have life-giving status.

Honeybees is a triangle of bees showing hierarchy of six with the largest at its apex; the group act as a unit moving upwards and the micro sounds of insect feet scratching the paper as they migrate vertically can almost be ‘heard’. Bee Triptych, implies a narrative perhaps suggestive of the rich history and symbolism of his subject, being composed in parts. Honeybees II, a diamond composition, like a little squadron of aircraft flying in formation, has a dynamic verticality all the more underlined by the artist’s lightness of touch serving to imply the notion of flight.

Animals live for the moment and have sensory perceptions of a completely different order to ours. They are fellow life forces existing on a different plane of being to that of humans. We attempt to imagine and project into their worlds and in doing so make discoveries that are both liberating and contemplative. Animals in art help us detach from our own introspections. Andrew Tyzack has an original, distinctive ‘voice’ that is direct, clear and unencumbered with contrivance.

Janet Waring