Artist of the month: Mark Pulsford
- Credit: Archant
Find out why this Canterbury-based abstract artist loves paper, working in the moonlight and the natural subject matter of bones, rocks and forest
Mark Pulsford used to have studios in Deal, but now his studio space near Canterbury is a large, converted ar port.
A generous-sized garage with high ceilings and plenty of light, it’s attached to the house so has become part of his domestic arrangements. He comments wrily that it is easier to store paper than three-dimensional work like sculptures.
Which takes us straight to his choice of medium. He likes paper. “I try to get as big as I can. I require paper that is heavy and thick, 450gsm. You can do almost anything with it, even hose it down, it’s a terrific surface,” he says.
His choice of subjects is wide and varied. “I suppose one goes through life finding fascinating things. I did a painting on the Palatine Hill in Rome, and I’d like to do an extended series. I started a series of transcripts of Tintoretto in Venice.
“The Italian Renaissance, art and architecture, is something that draws me.”
Mark adds: “Then there are the wild landscapes of the Hebrides and I’d love to go back there – at the moment I use the wild forests that are available to me here.
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“I am testing out some scenes where nature has found a balance, things that are so much more violent and primeval than oast houses. Take for instance my work on a tree root: there nature is rotting. I also love doing portraits.”
I comment on Mark’s Divisionist work, which seem to be luxuriant studies in colour that veer towards the abstract. There are also works whose inspiration seems to be the Surreal.
Indeed, Mark describes to me his forays into the forests at night, where he is experimenting with how to place marks on paper by moonlight.
He spent one evening working from 9pm until 4am, using quill and ink. “I don’t know how I got into it,” he admits. “I went into a graveyard and realised that it didn’t seem to be dark at all. Although it is impossible to see the nature of the mark.”
The challenge was “to see the image, to know how to develop an image, but what fraction of this light is only enough to maintain a coherent vision.
“You have to label colours before you leave the studio: there is a lot of preparation, you can’t paint all at once, because of the moon’s cycle.
“The development of this fascination has been a gradual one.”
Mark is also enthusiastic about collage, which will form much of his exhibition at Whistable’s Horsebridge. “Collage is a very young art, invented by Braque and Picasso, but they moved on,” he says.
His work will be entitled ‘Sweepings from the studio floor’ and will include collage made from parts of his own work.
We talk about the abstract, as I comment that Mark’s work looks abstract. “The development of my work parallels Sutherland’s, having its origins in the vigorous study of natural subject matter (bones, rocks, forest) which give way eventually (in my case emphatically) to abstract connectivities: yet still all the marks are made as visual responses to acts of perception,” adds Mark, who has been around art all his life.
His father had been a teacher at Edinburgh College of Art, and Mark had a rather unsatisfactory stint there himself before falling on his feet at Sittingbourne College, where he was mentored by Kent artist Roy Oxlade, “a cultural jewel.”
As Mark says: “I couldn’t have got a more sophisticated education in the arts than the one I stumbled upon.”
His career developed as a teacher in art, principally drawing, from his start as an undergraduate to postgraduate work.
He is confident about the importance of formal art training, although he adds: “I don’t think it is important for every gifted person, there will always be a Van Gogh or a Bacon who become artists because of their force of vision.”
My question concerning his advice to a young student challenges him. “Young artists find themselves in an artistic milieu which they and their contemporaries have helped to sustain,” he responds.
“There’s a youth ethos, so they have to strike while their moment exists. When you have this impetus of youth and you have talent, you are given lots of opportunities to seize.”
Mark himself is happy to feel he is part of Kent’s fine artistic community and is friends with artists Rose Wylie and John Blackburn. For their influence on his work, visit the Horsebridge Centre in Whitstable this month and see for yourself if the work is abstract, Surreal or figurative. n
Get in touch:
To Mark’s studio (by prior arrangement), call 01227 710632, email email@example.com, or visit www.markpulsford-the-artist.co.uk.
Mark Pulsford is exhibiting in Whitstable, from 5-30 April 2015, at: Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre, 11 Horsebridge Road, Whitstable CT5 1AF, 01227 281174