Thursday, 24 September 2009

'Coming through the ether like a radio signal'

Andrew Graham-Dixon has made a short film on a recent exhibition of the work of Mark Alexander at Haunch of Venison's gallery in Berlin (below). Please take a look - I'd be very interested to read your comments. I posted here on the sunflower pictures shown in the film, which I'd seen whilst visiting Mark and his wife Yuko with the boys earlier this year.

UPDATE: Here's the link if you have trouble viewing the film above:

Mark is a very dear friend. We go back a long way, first meeting whilst hanging out in Tudor bogs (the boys' lavatories and lockers at the Tudor house base of Cirencester Deer Park School - for some reason this was deemed a cool place to loiter). We got to know each other really well through participating in various inter-village battles, fought to settle disputes over which village's lads had got their harvest in first, sheared the most sheep, could do the best nutty dance, etc.

We went our separate ways for a couple of years or so but then, through coincidences too complicated to relate, we ended up getting confirmed in the Church of England and then going to Oxford together. The former was unlikely enough. But the latter, on Mark's part, was a fantastically unlikely achievement: he had only one 'O' level in art and one in metalwork (a B and a C respectively, I think). His admission was reported in the Daily Mirror. It was justified as, after an eventful time, he graduated with a first class bachelor's degree in fine art and since then has worked as a professional artist.

Here's one of his earlier paintings (left). It's in oil and looks monochrome but actually incorporates flecks of green, purple, blue and other colours. I think it's one of the most beautiful portraits.

When Mark left school he worked as a silversmith and then managed to become expert in precision aerospace engineering. These craft skills have informed his work. His techniques mirror those of the Old Masters - he taught himself in the traditional way by copying great works by artists such as Michelangelo, Vermeer, David and Stubbs.

Nevertheless, the ideas behind his works speak very much of our own day. Paradoxically, they speak of contemporary feelings of loss in a recovered language. I very much liked Mark's description of his 'sun' works as: 'Powerful, but hardly there, just coming through the ether like a radio signal'. It's a tremendously moving way to conceive of the past and the transmission of its culture to us today.


Bunny Smedley said...

For some reason I can't see any film here - is this a Firefox problem, or am I just being witless, or what?

Brit said...

I like them. A little bit Turin shroud and a little bit that thing that Han Solo got frozen into at the end of Empire Strikes Back.

I also feel an affinity with Andrew Graham-Dixon, since apart from one consonant and a hyphen, he has exactly my full name, and it always produces a double-take...But is he turning into Jools Holland here?

The portrait is great too... lot of soul there.

Kevin Musgrove said...

They're interesting, like gigantic representations of Georgian buttons. They'd be good to see in a gallery.

Gareth Williams said...

Bunny -- updated link:

Hey Skipper said...

I think it's one of the most beautiful portraits.

Bloody heck, that's a painting? Wow.

Bunny Smedley said...

Thanks, Gareth. I've now tried the new link several times, but once I'm there, I still can't see any film. Nothing, just a blank space, with remarkable resonances of the blank space I see where you've put the film on this blog.

One of the following is perhaps true:

1) Your friend is operating at a very high level of minimalism indeed;

2) Only people of particularly rarefied sensibility can fully appreciate this work, e.g. by seeing it, and I don't measure up;

or perhaps

3) I should investigate using a slightly less archaic version of Flash.

I might try to do someting about (3) as what you've written, and the other comments here, make his work sound very interesting.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Good lord, a modern artist doing representational art? And with talent too?? Whatever will they think of next! The portrait is quite photographic, but in my opinion it's good, and very likable.

Bunny Smedley said...

The portrait certainly does show a promising combination of skill, patience and the beneficial internalisation of the Old Masters' efforts, while also looking completely contemporary. Please do let us know if Mark Alexander is showing in London any time soon, though, because I remain unconvinced that it's possible to tell whether a picture is any good based on the screen version of a digital photo of the original - and what you have shown us (even for those of us who still haven't managed to make contact with the film) is enough to make me want to see more.