Artist Mark English Opening At Telluride Gallery Of Fine Art Thursday
[click “Play’ to hear Mark English interview]
Mark English is in Telluride this weekend – at least in spirit. The newest paintings of this great artist/illustrator are now on display Telluride Gallery of Fine Art. The foggy foggy dew image that became the poster for the 28th annual Telluride Wine Festival is also his.
What is the syntax that unifies Mark English’s magical, mystical paintings? Are there any governing principles that unite them? If you guessed that images of Native Americans, a ghost rider, a toy town, and farmscape suggest a rural Western past filtered through memory onto a canvas, you would be right.
Mark English was born in 1933 and raised in the rear view mirror town of Hubbard,Texas, which lies northeast of Waco. This no-count address once called Slap-out is a patchwork of farms, cotton fields, and snaking creeks and country roads, just exactly what is pictured in his “Farm to Market Road.”
English grew up to become the most decorated artist in the history of the Society of Illustrators, which also helps explain his paintings. Think detour: meticulous, mostly figurative illustrations created from photographs or painted from models versus abstracted bones of landscapes and portraits built from shapes and color, not line. In his paintings, English appears to be after the essence of something, not the thing itself, what he was paid to capture in his illustrations. The painted work underlines the truth about one theory from art history: the importance of the unintended and unexpected in the creative process.
English’s chosen medium is oil and wax, which he puts down on masonite or boards. He starts with the dark shapes, moving them around until a head or a house emerges.
In the end, the quality that defines Mark English’s scumbled work is evanescence: like memory, his images are at once solid and illusive. The artist makes no bones about his belief in the continuity of past and present – although he literally veils his conclusions. Part of the joy of contemplating a Mark English piece is the dialogue between the work and its source material. For the past decade, the artist has focused exclusively on gallery work, not commissions.
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