ANDREW KIDMAN is one of the most influential surf artists you may have never heard of. His work reveals a lifelong dedication to the ocean and surfing, and he has been described in Matt Warshaw’s The Encyclopedia of Surfing as somewhat of a wandering surf mystic. Andrew’s work includes Films such as Litmus, Glass Love Lost in the Ether and Spirit of Akasha, his book Ether, music from his past band The Val Dusty Experiment and current band The Windy Hills, artisan hand shaped surfboards, and a list of other projects.
The Litmus print featuring Derek Hynd riding a Skip Frye fish that I made for the 20th Anniversary Litmus box set
My first Introduction to Andrew was his pivotal surf film Litmus. It was around 2000, I was about 16, and it was still a time when all the best shredding was viewed via dvd’s purchased from your local surf shop. I was browsing surf flicks, saw the cover of litmus and immediately drawn in by a little picture of Joel Fitzgerald holding a mushroom in front of his shaggy smiling face, and thought hmmm, this would make a great birthday present for my dad. Of course I ended up watching it over and over with my surf buds, waiting until my parents were gone so we could sneak outside for some combustible viewing enhancement. In retrospect, watching Litmus changed my trajectory as a surfer and, to some degree, as a person. At the time I didn’t realize this blatantly non, almost anti- corporate surf film would ever make a dent, as only a few of my like minded friends ever gave it the full appreciation it deserved. Luckily, but not surprisingly, there happened to be a quite a few surfers around the world that were tuned into the same frequency. My stoke level for Andrew is incredibly high, since he is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves as an artist, and Litmus - the classic that no one heard of, has retained its cult following, and has seen a flurry of publicity lately, along with some of Kidman’s other projects.
Over a decade later I wandered into Aqua surf shop for the first time half-assed looking for a job and got lucky to become part of crew. I cant remember exactly how the conversation started but one day Aleks Petrovich, one of the shops co-owners mentioned something like; “Yeah, Andrew Kidman is a good friend of mine. He just premiered his new film here and I think I want to interview him for the shop’s blog. You can help if you want.” Needless to say I was stoked to help.
Petro, as the Aqua crew lovingly refers to him as, is one of the most unique, high energy, laterally minded, and warm hearted surfers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. If you’ve ever met the guy you know I'm not just sucking up to my boss by saying that. After getting to know Petro a little better and seeing his own prowess and influence as an artist it’s easy to see how these two would find one another. Here is Aleks’ classic recollection of their first meeting in his words:
“I was first introduced to Andrew by our mutual friend, Marcus Sanders, at some barely organized "Surf Art Show” that we both had pieces in. That must have been ten or fifteen years ago. The show was at 111 Minna Gallery and was “organized and curated” by some snake oil salesman (art world huckster) name rhymes with Rim, so basically everything that could go wrong, did. Being friends as I was with many of the great people at 111 Minna Gallery, I wanted to help out when I saw this train wreck unfolding. My business, Aqua surf shop, has had many great events with 111 Minna, so we help each other out. So, I basically took over hanging the show, and covered other things that badly needed to get done for an art show to happen. It was during this art show lifesaving effort that I got to know Andrew, who jumped right in to help and lend his great sense of humor to calm me down. Within minutes I felt like this was a guy I've grown up with. He was cracking jokes at my expense, and I was laughing and enjoying it as much as he was. From that point in time we have had a consistent relationship - simply making fun of each other, working on an occasional creative project together, and keeping up with each other as we go through time. I get amped when he comes stateside to premiere his new film projects and I work hard to organize the best SF premieres I can. Andrew is a multi talented person whom really fuels my creativity- after hanging out with him I want to go make rad things!”
Aleks and I recently took some time to ask Andrew about life, his artwork, and surfing. For more info on Andrew check out his website: andrewkidman.com
Kevin: You make films, surfboards, prints, books, take photos, make music... Is there one particular trade or media that you enjoy the most, or one that defines you as an artist?
On the road on the East Coast last year, at Asbury Park Photos by John Schultz
Andrew: I like making music. It’s an endless journey full of challenges and surprises. It’s an interesting process to then combine it with film or story telling. The journey of making surfboards is pretty incredible as well ever changing, ever evolving, making boards for different waves. It’s a fun thing to do.
Kevin: Did you think Litmus would have the effect it did on the surf world? Did you set out to create a cult classic?
Andrew: No. We just wanted to reflect some of the things that were going on in surfing at the time. It was pre-meditated, we didn’t have much of a plan. I knew Derek was experimenting with boards as I’d seen them, so I thought that would be interesting to watch in a film, his quiver journey. The rest of the film really just unfolded as Jon and I travelled around. We’d recorded the soundtrack before we left to shoot the film so we already knew what the film could feel like.
Litmus 20th Anniversary box set, featuring Litmus and glass Love soundtracks on vinyl and a 100 page book put out by Anthology Recordings
Kevin: The word hipster still gets thrown around a lot these days, and to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what this most heinous of insults means, besides a young man that likes to don tight jeans and a fedora. It seems that in our surf tribe, hipsterdom has gained an unfortunate association with the more artistic and unconventional branches of the surfing tree when in the past, surfers and surf artists of that vain were kind of revered, and their unconventional experimental thinking has contributed to countless advancements in wavering and equipment. That being said, what are your thoughts on the word “hipster,” and what would you say to someone who labeled you as such?
I grew up working with Simon Anderson, he'd shape me boards and we'd go surfing, test them out. This is down the South Coast in the late 80s riding a round tail 6'5" flat bottom.
Andrew: I never really thought about it. I’d be stoked if someone thought I was a “hipster”. Especially if I was sporting my morning dressing robe, like Harry Nillson on the cover of his finest record Nilsson Schmilsson.
Kevin: Was the big PG warning on the DVD of Akasha a reaction to some of the negative criticism you received for the more controversial parts of Litmus?
Andrew: Not really, we didn’t classify the film. I think it had a M rating actually, which I’m okay about. There’s an anti herion cartoon that features in the film. Young kids are not going to understand that, so that’s fair enough.
Kevin: What was it like working with Falzon, and what did you learn from him? Do you see any similarities between Albert and yourself?
Andrew: Working with Alby was great. He has a real eye for artistic beauty and he understands true art I think. The best part for me was when the cover songs of Morning of the Earth were coming through, musicians like Will Oldham and Andrew Van Wyngarden from MGMT covering the original songs, I was sending them through to Alby and he was so humbled and blown away by the versions, nobody had stepped up to cover the title track Morning of the Earth, maybe it was too daunting, then Mick Turner the guitarist from the Dirty Three called and said he’d like to do it, which I thought would be pretty radical. Mick ended up doing it with the Xlyouris Ensemble with vocals by this opera singer, Oliver Mann. It was just incredible when the final version came through, Alby was sitting next to me when it arrived and I played it for him. He sat there with his eyes closed listening to it, when it was done he opened them and said, “That’s just pure art.” It was a really special moment.
I shaped this board with Dave Parmenter and Wayne Lynch, 6'7" single fin. One of my favourites!
Kevin: What do you think about professional surfing? Do you get stoked watching WSL contests? Does it have any effect on your life or artwork?
Andrew: It’s okay. I think there are too many surfers on the tour and not enough wildcards. It’s pretty obvious who the best surfers are and I like to watch them surf when the waves are good. It’s a distraction watching it. When I was a kid growing the only surfing you’d see was on the news at night when the big comps were in Australia, it’s everywhere these days which is pretty cool.
Kevin: What kind of technology did you use to shoot Akasha? How does it compare to what Morning of the Earth, and Litmus was shot on? How much consideration to you put into the camera equipment you use for your films and how does it effect the final product? Is there anything to be said for the Low-FI not overproduced aesthetic and sound in films, music, and surfboards?
Litmus Box set on the shelves going Cuckoo Bra
Andrew: We used every format really. The cameraman were using whatever they owned. Morning of the Earth was just one cameraman (Alby) using one camera using 16mm film, I just threw it out to people like Jon Frank, Mickey Smith, Patrick Trefz to shoot what they felt would honor Alby, which they did, it was a full collaboration honoring Alby’s filmmaking and the songs that scored the film. Litmus was shot on hi 8. I can’t say I consider it that much, camera’s are just cameras, they all work, for me it’s more about the story I’m trying to tell. Cameras these days are just incredible, the slo mo, it’s mindblowing. I love watching surfing like this. If I had money, I’d have cameras that could shoot like this.
Kevin: How did you become a surf artist/ shaper/ musician? Is it something you one day decided to do or was it a slow process?
Andrew: I started playing music when I was a kid, my parents wanted me to do it. It’s just something I’ve always done, I love it. Surfing was the same, I started doing it when I was a kid and I loved it and I’ve just kept doing it, shaping is a part of being a good surfer I think, when I was growing up all the best surfers were shapers, Simon Anderson, Terry Fitzgerald…I grew up as a kid surfing with these guys and watching them shape, working with them to try and make the boards better. It’s infectious, it just rubs off on you, I wanted to shape boards so I could make my surfing better and attempt to ride the waves how I wanted to ride them, get new feelings.
Kevin: Whats your day to day like, and how much time do you put in to creative process and traveling? Have you made a conscious effort to avoid the 9-5 daily grind?
Michele Lockwood has great style in and out of the water!
Andrew: I’ve never thought about 9-5 grind. I just try to work everyday on something, keep the bills paid doing things I like doing. It’s not easy but we get by. We live a pretty low-key lifestyle. If the surf’s good I try to go surfing. It’s not always good so I work on days like that or hang out with my kids and Michele. We have a good life, we’ve been very fortunate to live in rural Australia, food is local, the air is clean, we collect our own rain water, the kids go to good schools, we really don’t need a lot more.
Curren usually stays with us when he comes out to Oz, last year he was right into stand up boogie board riding and Gus got right into it as well
Aleks: Dude, thank you so much for your time I need to get over and visit you and da family! Kevin thank you for putting together this interview I really appreciate it. Aloha!
Well, one wish I have is for a sequel to our all time favorite surf film MORNING OF THE EARTH! Andrew worked with Alby on SPIRIT OF AKASHA and it is a tribute to Alby's amazing film. We are premiering SPIRIT OF AKASHA this Saturday June 20th at The Independent. Here is a fun music video we made for Andrew and The Windy Hills for the single Three Wishes, featuring Riverock, Skydar, Merle and Lylefoot. The Windy Hills will be performing live after the screening.
For any more show info visit http://www.theindependentsf.com/event/877827-spirit-akasha-san-francisco/
Aqua presents a night with Andrew Kidman, featuring live music with his band and a very special screening of his latest film - Spirit of Akasha. Sat, June 20th at The Independent, 628 Divisadero. Doors: 8:30pm/Movie: 9:15/ Live music to follow. $15 ADV-$17 Door. Tickets available at www.theindependentsf.com
What is 'Akasha'
If you could string your moments of pure bliss in surfing through your entire life, like pearls on a string, then a great story would unfold and your time here would not have been wasted. It would be the story of a deep connection with the ocean forged form a lifelong commitment to an idea. As humans, everything that we are, everything that we have done and everything that we have yet to do must first exist as an idea.
The great works of art and science and healing that have everlasting benefits for the life of humankind, originate as ideas. As such, they materialise from somewhere beyond time and space. In the east, this place is known as Akasha, a universal dimensions from which all ideas, all like and all creation originate.
"According to the philosophers of India, the whole universe is composed of two materials, one of which they call Akasha. It is the omnipresent, all-penetrating existence. Everything that has form, everything that is the result of combination, is evolved out of this Akasha. It is the Akasha that becomes the air, that becomes the liquids, that becomes the solids, it is the Akasha that becomes the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the comets, it is the Akasha that becomes the human body, the animal body, the plants, every form that we see, everything that can be sensed, everything that exists. It cannot be perceived; it is so subtle that is is beyond ordinary perception; it can only be seen when it becomes gross, has taken form. At the beginning of creation there is only the Akasha. At the end of the cycle the solid, the liquids, and the gases all melt into the Akasha again, and the next creation similarly proceeds out of Akasha…"
Inspiration behind the project
In the beginning of the Spirit of Akasha project I had this idea of some of the best modern surfers in the world riding boards inspired by the boards that were ridden in Morning of the Earth. These boards would be single fins, as that's what was predominately ridden back in 1972. I had this vision in my mind of re-creating the beauty and dance of the Michael Peterson sequence at Kirra - folly really, as Kirra today, is only a shadow of the wave it once was. And, in my opinion, the sequence is one of the most beautiful series of ridden waves ever captured on film. In essence: a boy discovering with each ride the possibilities of what he could be: agile and naive - but open to understanding the spark of what he felt. Still young enough to have that skeletal structure without muscle, a lightweight drifting at the highest of speeds across waves with very few humans around to interfere with his chosen track. Riding a board shaped by his own hands, engineered in his eighteen year old mind to ride the perfect sand bottom suckers - in boardies no less. Moments unable to be repeated because life moves on, change takes placed in the mind and body and, as we all know, waves are like snowflakes. For some reason these moments were recorded on film for others to watch and wonder about for eternity.
"By chance. I just turned up and Michael happened to be surfing," is Albert Falzon's recall of how the sequence came about.
And Michael's recall, "If they'd taken that movie on the first or second day they would have seen some better surfing, everybody was worn out, everybody was a lot slower because they were worn out. That cyclone lasted for weeks."
One can only imagine…
And so the Earth keeps turning - it's been forty revolutions around the sun since Albert burned celluloid of this kid in yellow and then red boardies. Call it a celebration, call it an inspired move - at the beginning of 2012 Albert and I began working on a new film - attempting to capture the values and spirit that was represented in Morning Of The Earth.
In the new film I wanted to feature women surfing. I wanted to show the unique relationship women have with the sea. I'd first seen this relationship in the early nineties, when I'd watched Rell Sunn drift across a wave at Makaha. Her ride was like nothing I'd ever seen before.
Andrew Kidman, Director/DOP
Australian artist Andrew Kidman works in many mediums. Each discipline, be it music, writing, painting, photography, surfboard shaping or films is born from his innate connection to the ocean.
Kidman’s documented and recorded works evolve over many years, allowing them to take on a life of their own. His patience and dedication to subject is remarkably rare in the modern day commercial arena.
Often dealing directly with the documentation of his peers and his own personal experiences, the stories he chooses to tell don’t expire but grow more complex with time.
Among his works are the films Litmus, Glass Love and Last Hope. Last Hope in particular being a film that merged the creative aspect of surf and art.
Andrew is also an accomplished musician, having released albums as Andrew Kidman, The Val Dusty Experiment and The Brown Birds of Windy Hills.
Andrew has also published a number of books, most notably Lost in the Ether, Way of the Bird and a film/book documentary detailing the finer points of surfboard designed, Ether.
The end result offers and un-namable and moving familiarity to those it reaches. Yet it consistently embodies an unfamiliar meditative ‘otherness’ very particular to him. This ethereal aspect is an invitation to take a deeper look.
Albert Falzon, Producer (SOA) / Director (MOTE)
His inaugural feature film, Morning of the Earth was the first Australian film to receive a gold record for album sales. His entry in the Cannes Film Festival Crystal Voyager featured music from Pink Floyd. Talking Heads and Brian Eno accompanied an Indian Saddhu’s pilgrimage in Same as it ever Was.
Falzon’s career in film making was a natural progression from international still photography, and later combined with magazine publishing, in Australia, Israel and the island of Bali in Indonesia. He was co-founder and publisher of the surfing newspaper Tracks.
His perceptive and sensitive photographic eye almost suggests that he was born with a camera to it.
A penchant for travel, particularly to remote and spectacular regions in the world has had a major influence on the themes of Falzon’s work. A six part documentary series focused on traditional Festivals in such Far Eastern countries as Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Ladakh and Tibet has sold to over forty countries world-wide.
The significance of filming some of these regions is only evident today with the political closing of Tibet and Burma to travelers and the civil strife in Sri Lanka. And not all locations were easily accessible.
Another film The Road to Timbuktu followed a path from Casablanca across the searing Sahara Desert to Timbuktu on the African Ivory Coast.
He has also directed two long version music videos for Chris Blackwell founder of Island Records and was DOP on Women of Spirit a one hour television program recently filmed in India, NY and London.