Summer has finally arrived and things are looking bright, vibrant and uplifting in our Soho gallery. As part of MIX, our summer group show, we are debuting work from a number of artists that haven’t previously shown with us before.
One of the new names to the gallery is artist Mark McClure. We caught up with Mark in his East London studio to discuss his unique practice that straddles fine art, interior design, sculpture and street art. Amongst other things we examined some of his influences, as well as the genesis of his hand crafted, geometric works and visually complex murals.
How would you describe the art you create?
I’d say it’s abstract graphic art. I try not to label it too much. I wouldn’t necessary just call it sculpture, as I enjoy doing the flat stuff as well like painting murals.
You often repurpose pieces of wood that have previously served a different function, transforming it into artwork…
It can be tricky. I really like working with found materials but sometimes it can be a hindrance and you just want to play with the shapes without worrying about the history of the object and that aesthetic. I quite like really slick, tidy geometric shapes. It’s almost like using a type of paint; it adds a whole new aspect to the work when you use weathered exposed wood. There’s an entire story behind it, which is nice, it immediately gives the piece another layer.
I’ve always loved the aesthetic. Rauschenberg was one of my favourite growing up and that whole screen-printed, rough, textured, assemblage type of work incorporating found objects. Coming to London you see so much of that around, scruffy walls with tags on them – that certain type of texture. There are also the stories behind reclaimed pieces of wood. It’s great when you find an old desk and it’s got school kid’s scratchings and graffiti on it. I think it goes back to pop art when I was about 16, seeing artists like Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Hamilton, Peter Blake. It was all very graphic.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
It can sound pretentious but a lot is subconscious. Buildings and architecture. I love things like painted lines on the road – that kind of visual language that we absorb without really realising it, hence the chevrons in my work, it’s all around us. The work did used to be a bit more figurative but it’s just abstracted out into pure shapes. It’s come from buildings originally but it’s gone a bit wayward on it’s journey…
Did you study art or are you self-taught?
I studied graphic design, which probably shows. I was always a fan of that crossover of Bauhaus, Abstract and Pop Art. I did a mural recently and the client I was doing it for was a designer, he said he’d have to line everything up and I used to do that, but you just gradually start to loosen up the language I think. You distil it down, strip out things and make it less rigid.
Do you methodically plan out your murals or work in a more intuitive way?
Generally I plan them but I like to keep it quite loose, there’s always a period at the end when you just ad-lib it, which is the fun bit. I plan just to get the composition and structure right; it normally ends up slightly different so you have to tweak it. I did a big wooden mural three years ago at the Olympic stadium. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ll ever do physically and I learnt so much on that, working with professional set builders and a proper crew. After that I went out and bought all these amazing tools that I hadn’t considered before, it completely changed the way I work.
I’ve done a few more wooden ones since then, but I started painting them so I could do them more cheaply and quickly. It’s nice to be able to speed up the process. I love the change in the scale and being able to get outside and speak to people whilst making work.
What’s your favourite part of the artistic process; generating ideas, working in the studio, exhibiting or making art in the public domain?
I enjoy it all for different reasons. The core of the practice is definitely in the studio - but then I enjoy exhibiting and getting the feedback on the work. Painting outside is a different thing - interacting with people in their domain. It gets quite insular working in the studio so it’s definitely enjoyable getting out into the world.
Where do you see your work going?
I like the idea of making an environment, immersive stuff and things you can play with. I find it really interesting the whole idea of interaction in galleries, what people feel confident to do or what they’re allowed to do. I’m in the early days of working with electronics, things that involve inputting data from the Internet and the possibilities of that. I used to do a lot of interactive design, so I love the idea of things changing over time with people’s input and feedback. It breaks all the barriers down when people can have an effect on the work and feel part of it.
Who are some of your favourite artists and people who have been influential on your career?
I didn’t know about Frank Stella until about two years ago, his stuff is just amazing. Barbara Hepworth is probably up there. Her work is very different, much more organic than mine but I just love the shapes and the way she works - great visual language. I think Maser is my current favourite just for the boldness of it and some of his relief work. Calder is another new one to me; his mobile sculptures look so modern even though some of them were made nearly a hundred years ago. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on right now with street art losing it stigma and just being accepted as art.
What do you enjoy doing when not making art?
I went hiking in the Alps recently – that completely blew my mind. There were glaciers everywhere, burning hot sun, just an incredible landscape. I enjoy getting to places like that. Also a bit of cycling and gardening, which is one of the best hangover cures around.
Finally, if you could invite three artists to dinner, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Kandinsky, I’m not a massive fan of his art but I think it would be really interesting. Jackson Pollock, he was quite an intense character so he’d be good. Picasso I’d imagine would be an interesting dinner conversationalist. None of these would be there because of their art, just for interesting topics of conversation.
Mark McClure is currently exhibiting in our summer group show MIX, which runs until 20th August.
If you are interested in the work of Mark McClure check out what we have currently available. For more information please contact the gallery on +44 (0) 20 7240 7909 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.