Living and working in rural Suffolk, Mark’s studio is alive with a host of characters which he designed and sculpted himself.
Mark utilises anything and everything as raw materials for his models. Paper folded, origami style, as in ‘Homogeny Fish #2’, clay modelled and moulded as in ‘Two Pitta Birds’, pipe cleaners, card, string, paper straws, wall paper and sponges.
In ‘Flap Snap’ you can see that a chenille, microfibre duster has been used to create the bird’s tufty tummy, and a cardboard box has been flattened to form the nest in which he shelters.
These crowds of creatures perch, nestled on shelves and tables, watching Mark work.
Originally trained as a Product Designer, Mark would now class himself as a painter. Yet his process is far from simple, a complex and involved system of creating characters, sculpting them with raw materials, bringing them to three-dimensional life, posing and arranging them into elaborate stage sets before applying dramatic lighting.
Mark then commences the process of transforming these scenes into two-dimensional form, making preparatory sketches with the aid of crosshairs to ensure accuracy in scale.
Mark then performs his artistic magic, painting magnificently colourful, perfectly harmonious and balanced, amusing and entertaining, entirely unique works of art.
What comes first - the idea for a painting and then you sculpt your models and set? Ordo you create your sculpture and then arrange them in a set?
“Anyway that works. I tend to have ‘directions’ that I write in my sketchbooks –for example develop cliff face nests, or try using patterned surfaces. I might then draw some quick ideas in my sketchbook. Or fiddle about with materials and models on my ‘stage’.
As often as not I find some interesting material or arrangement that sends me off at a tangent to produce one piece or even a set, which may result in a whole new direction or I might drag myself back to first intentions.”
I imagine that it must take a huge amount of time to create your sculptures and then create the painting?
“Some models just happen, usually when I am trying to achieve something else, but most do take time to set up.
Usually I break up the monotony of painting by preparing the model for the next piece. A model can take anything from an hour to a week. A painting then can take from3 days to 6 weeks, depending on size and complexity.”
Can you describe a typical day in the studio?
“Ideas days can be quite chaotic, with materials and models flying out of the drawers and onto my viewing stage. Making days are a bit more ordered as I’m sawing, folding, modelling. Then I spend ages sorting out distances, relationships, lighting, scale. Most days, however, are painting days. That just means getting up and doing an hour’s drawing or painting before breakfast, then on until lunch, and then up until 5 or 6pm. All rather boring, as I’m glued between the viewfinder in front of the stage, and the easel.”
Do you have artists whom you admire or who influence your work?
“Loads–the list gets longer. I always admired the sense of joy that Hockney seems to communicate, and the exotic of Rousseau. When I first started full time painting I was after that exotic/African look, but then I started looking closer to home. I was very influenced for a time by 17th century Dutch paintings, particularly artists like Hondecoeter who painted menageries of exotic birds and animals on their wealthy owners’ European estates – the first zoos in a way but there were some bizarre mismatches of creatures with surroundings.”