Studio Visit: Mark Whalen in Los AngelesJuxtapoz // Monday, 12 Sep 2011
MARK WHALEN studio visit & interview
By Trina Calderon
I was lucky enough to hang out with Mark Whalen (Australian graffiti writer turned graphic designer turned amazing painter) recently at his studio in Silver Lake as he was amping up for his new show ANOMALY, which opens September 10th, 2011 at Merry Karnowsky Gallery in Los Angeles. His paintings for the show are brilliantly disturbing and continue his visual exploration of the sociological narratives he interprets from human existence. Mark wrapped a solo show earlier this year at Black Arts in Melbourne, and has since been very busy. He’s experimenting with talented animator Thomas McMahan, who has breathed life into Mark’s 2D art by transforming it into the magical world of 3D animation.
Along with a mesmerizing soundtrack provided by Carla Azar, they’ve created a larger than life video installation of the animations, OBSERVER, which will be featured in the upcoming exhibit in L.A. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also releasing Human Development, a beautiful collectors book of his art, created with Zero Publishing. I had a few words with him about his new artwork and his meaning of life. —Trina Calderon
How has your background in graphic design informed your work as a painter?
I think it generally has made we aware of certain things that cross over into painting. I think design and painting share a lot of similar methods and for me, it was really handy knowing that. My work has a lot of graphic elements in it and I think that has influenced my painting style quite a lot because it’s something I relate to really well.??
How does science play a part in developing the narratives that exist inside your paintings?
I’m always fascinated by the idea of science and for me personally, my work is about a forecast of humanity, and science and future existence play a huge part in this. I’m really drawn to futuristic ideologies. It’s a personal preference that I like to use to execute my own ideas through painting.?
Androgynous figures prominently appear in your work. Who ?do they represent...who are they?
They don't represent any specific type of person. My work is heavily representational and gender is a non-issue. They are all just people, playing out roles.
In between and often connecting all these figures are an array of symbols - what do they mean and why do you use them?
I use the figures to carry out all sorts of narratives and explore different scenarios that we deal with everyday: emotion, self-destruction, humor, spirituality, etc. It’s just my interpretation of life, the world around us, and where I see it headed. But, I don’t want to tell people what the work is directly about. Although I have my own personal endeavors through the work, I like the depiction to be open to the viewer.?
How does the idea of an anomaly relate to your work for your upcoming show?
I think it generally relates to the work all together and it’s a word that covers a lot of the basis behind my work. It can be taken both seriously and humorously when you’re viewing the work, and I think the idea of anomaly is good for an open interpretation for the viewer.
There is highly structured intention in my work and much of it works with formula -- grids, repetition, angles, and perspective. As much as I like emulating this structure, I also like deviation — things that have peculiarities that are not classifiable. I think these are the things that make us individuals, and where our humanity lies.??
You've introduced some new elements in your paintings - string for one. What does it symbolize and how did it come to play in your work?
For me, the string is a fun way to illustrate problem solving. The tangles and trouble of life always feel like a messed up ball of string, right? But, it also symbolizes the things that tie us together - order and the invisible connections we have to one another.
Your show will feature a very cool animated video installation of your work. How did this evolve and what do you think it does to the nature of your work and how viewers will perceive it, opposed to seeing it in 2D?
I met Thomas McMahan and he was really into my paintings and ideas. He always suggested that my work would translate well into animation. The idea did cross my mind quite a lot, but I just could never envision someone being able to animate my characters in a way that would express movement the way I see it. Thomas is insane and he really relates to what I’m doing, so I think it was just a natural thing that ended up happening, and it worked out really well. I think it’s an interesting perspective on the work because not only does it flow and articulate another side of the characters, but it’s animated in a way that you would expect it to if you were to see it motion, while still keeping the absurd gestures and notions behind the work in tact.
Whalen and McMahan:
Mark Whalen (Kill Pixie)
Through October 1, 2011
Merry Karnowsky Gallery
Los Angeles, California