Light Matters

For my solo show at Long and Ryle Gallery in Pimlico, writer Lucy Scholes provided this inciteful essay

In ‘Daylight Matters’ a young girl, bordered on either side by lambent green foliage, approaches a dark tunnel. The viewer’s eye is drawn towards this shady centre, a pool of inky green so opaque it’s almost black. Where the darkness gives way to bright light on the other side, the tunnel’s mouth is ringed with what look like rolling, roiling flames of fire, flickers of olive and ochre. If there’s a thread that runs through Mark’s work—both his oil paintings and his watercolours, whether portraits, landscapes or still lives— it’s his astonishing ability to bring light to life on the canvas. The luminous centre of ‘Rowing Boat’ with its impression of the gentle undulations of sun-dappled water, glinting and gleaming between the soft sway of leaves and branches. The tablecloth that dominates ‘Walkie Talkie’, glowing with creamy, crisp whiteness. What is ‘Escaliers Jeunes, Bois Vert’ if not a portrait of light, the reflection of the window brazenly projected across the wall in an otherwise empty stairwell?

Mark is a painter of glimpses, of flashes of light, of intimate, otherwise unwitnessed moments. His unoccupied rooms are suggestive of abandoned stage sets; imbued with the echoes of a scene just finished, or the portent of one about to come. His portraits focus on nothing but the subject in question; narrative is implied, but rarely actually gestured to. His landscapes are still and silent. He also sees compositions where others wouldn’t, in the detritus of ordinary, everyday life: a receipt, rolls of masking tape, a wineglass repurposed as a makeshift vase, even the postcards pinned up on his studio wall.

But it’s his watercolours that best capture this essence of spontaneity. He bought a tin at a jumble sale when he was only 16, and found he could work with them straight away; the connection between eye and hand was immediate and instinctive. He used them—and uses them still—to sketch anything that caught his eye. “Friends, beautiful things, pop stars, light falling on objects, favourite places.” Over the years, these sketchbooks have become a journal of sorts, a record of his life: “When I look at one of them,” he explains, “it’s easy to recollect where I was, what else was happening, what I was listening to.” It’s a medium to which he’s stayed quietly faithful; that which affords him the most freedom, and allows him to paint what he regards as his most unguarded, unselfconscious work. It makes sense then that there should be such a confidence to these images, and a cleanness too. Mark paints with a precision that’s not commonly associated with watercolours, but most impressive of all is the boldness with which he plays with empty space. What he doesn’t paint—those portions of the paper that he leaves blank—are every bit as important as that which he fills with colour. They’re unfinished, but they’re not incomplete.

Lucy Scholes

Rose Garden Hemingford Grey, 2022
Oil on gesso board,  29 x 42 cm

Silver Coffee Pot , 2022
Watercolour 31 x 25 cm