This was the first time that the seven large paintings in Michael Andrew’s Lights series, completed between 1970 and 1974, were exhibited together as a group outside Britain. The paintings, drawn from important public and private collections in the UK, USA, France and Spain, including the Arts Council, Metropolitan Museum, New York and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza were shown as part of the Thyssen’s In Focus series in the balcony gallery adjoining the permanent collection.

Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations with its evocation of a heightened spiritual awareness provided Andrews with the initial inspiration for the title of the series, from which he developed the metaphor of an imaginary journey of a hot air balloon. Like many of Andrews’ paintings, the Lights series appears straightforward at first but becomes more mysterious the more one looks at them. His use of photographic source material, juxtaposing images from newspapers and magazines, produces a dreamlike effect. The paint is not conventionally applied by brush, but is sprayed and stencilled with a clear and powerful vision.

The exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in separate language editions (Spanish/English). A handsome and informative volume, the catalogue includes an essay and chronology by William Feaver and a text by Spanish writer Belen Gopegui. It also includes previously unseen photographs of notes, drawings and source material by Andrews in his studio.