As a child growing up in Communist Albania, Andrian dreamt of becoming a painter. After he was accepted into art school however, he was told there were too many students on the painting course. To deal with this problem, the students were asked to draw straws to determine their future artistic careers. When Andrian drew one of the short straws, he had to transfer to the sculpture course. His childhood dreams of being a painter were shattered.
Fast forward forty years and it seems that drawing the short straw, and studying sculpture instead of painting, has turned out rather well. Andrian’s list of prestigious clients includes HM King Charles III (his relief of Laocoon can be seen in The Royal Gardens at Highgrove) lords and well-known entrepreneurs. Andrian’s public work can also be seen at St Mungo’s Church in Glasgow, Bamburgh Castle War Memorial and the gardens of Chiswick House where he worked with English Heritage. His first over-life-sized bronze figure, of Captain Sir Tom Moore, was exhibited at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2022 to great acclaim and now welcomes visitors to Leeds Chapel Allerton Hospital.
Andrian Melka graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana and is best known for his figurative work in marble and stone and for his freestyle approach to carving. His skills were honed carving portraits and reliefs in a marble workshop in Albania where he also developed an interest in classical and Renaissance sculpture. Andrian prefers to work directly in stone, without the need for a full-sized model, in the same way Michelangelo would have done. He uses a drawing of the frontal view of the figure as a template, then, working by eye, finds his way into the stone.
During the Albanian Civil War in 1997, Andrian moved to England with a Getty scholarship, and spent a year at the Building Crafts College in London where he was awarded the City & Guilds Silver Medal for Excellence. Later, he moved to York to work as Head Sculptor for renowned carver Dick Reid, working on high-profile commissions including the Jubilee Fountain commemorating The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. In 2003 Andrian opened his own studio, taking on a range of commissions in the UK and America. He became a QEST scholar in 2008, winning the QEST Award for Excellence in 2020, and is a member of the Society of Portrait Sculptors and the Art Workers' Guild.
Much of Andrian’s work, is inspired by classical depictions of the Gods and Goddesses in mythology, and with idealised versions of the human body. He has also created more abstract sculptures of the human form, particularly in the series of pieces entitled ‘Motherhood’. Andrian is drawn to interesting faces, and figures, striving to express his subject’s personality and movement, in addition to their likeness, to capture the essence of a person. His figurative sculptures and portraits seem to come to life, often provoking a deeply emotional response.
Since 2018, Andrian has returned to modelling in clay, creating bronze portraits, busts and over-life-sized statues and experimenting with patination techniques as well as with ceramic sculpture.