Exhibitions are one of life’s luxuries I what you to come to love them too!!! The luxury is having multiple paintings, multiple things to engage with without the pressure of anything!! No sales, no correct answer, no checking off the to do list. All you do is enjoy and wonder. 

I could go on. And on, and on but!! In the Henderson and Grant Gallery currently is both older and new work of Marc Blake. Marc is aware that his newer work asks big questions. The ‘what is art and what is painting’ question. He has troubled our understanding by digital printing and his developing artistic practise with digital techniques. 

As an audience, we have become used to quickly printing and often assume that’s true for artists like Marc. Hit print and it is done. His process is however complicated and time-consuming. It is a  traditional struggle of revealing answers in response to a personal inquiry to show a universal concern. In Marc’s work he is sketching with a camera, collaging with a computer, preparing canvases with a covering of pigment inks rather than gesso. He is building up and wiping back, He is even washing with a water blaster! Then a canvas is restretched to receive further work.

In this presentation, the loudest question comes from Marc having hung three copies of an image and another one scaled up. They are of a traditional format of flowers in a vase. Is it working in series or is it an iterative development or a contemporary version of a commercial studio’s production?  As a viewer it is fascinating to stand and realise they aren’t exact copies. Allowing time and our mind to ‘spot the difference,’ Flowers die and beauty transmutes to rich compost. Gradually it’s a new fragility that opens up between the pieces. The differences are a shiver of recognition in our mind. Then as you move to the other new works, keeping a similar attention you engage with the marks the gestures of the artist. This way of seeing, of looking at the detail, opens the work up. We stop looking at and start looking into. 

In the other 4 works, shown in the Henderson Gallery, there is no simple recognition of a traditional subject. In these the fragility is in the thin layers of ink, the illusion to cuts in the canvas, the erasure of a water blaster, the record of a digital move. Here is the intense interest in the surface and its disrupted existence. The canvas supports the illusion or the paint defines a new surface. We focus into, passed the canvas surface of a painting. 

This interest in surface is there in the older works hung in the Grant Gallery. Influenced by his time in Japan this work questions ‘painting’ less. It is work that is more of a direct observation for the viewer. But the ’simple’ trees or masked figures sitting on the grass are on complex surfaces. Again we are seeing an interesting shift that Marc has made. There is no white canvas moment. No modernist ‘tabla rasa’ Mark operates in our contemporary world of image overload and therefore starts in a context of a visual from somewhere or something. It can be plywood that he turns to a shimmering stain of green and golden highlights. 

Taking a friend and talking about your reaction and experience is a philosophical, or mindful act and is the point of aesthetic experience. The luxury is not on the wall but in the time spent letting your world interact with the place Marc has generated for us. Trying to decode Marc’s practice isn’t the art experience. That comes in time watching and letting the emotion rise and the thinking mind decipher. In this case, seeing the fragile difference between surface and image.  

cheers Judy

PS My favorite luxury is Maestro my dog

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