I’ve had the pleasure of spending the past few weeks at Artful : The Gallery surrounded by the larger than life canvases created by Mark Henderson as part of the current Bikes and Barbies Exhibition.
And when I say larger than life, I mean the canvases are 7 feet high and between 4 to 8 feet wide! These are big kick-ass paintings, not just in scale, but also in their subject matter.
Mark isn’t afraid to tackle provocative topics, and the conversations that have been happening here in the gallery are a reflection of what is on the walls. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, “Art is cultural psychotherapy!”
Artists in general, and Mark in particular, are often willing to sit and work quietly in the discomfort of difficult subjects: media manipulation, vegan diets, mass production of animals for slaughter, marketing and advertising, melting ice caps, brand management, sexualization and objectification of women, animal extinction.
By finding a way to critically represent these topics, and simultaneously maintain his sense of humour and delight at the world we exist in, Mark can instigate conversations that don’t degenerate into divisive polarities. Mark says what he sees and paints what he thinks, with a quiet, self-deprecating and provocative grace.
Why so big? Any artist who has ever worked on a large scale has struggled with the issues of creating over-sized work. You can’t tuck it into the back seat of your car to move it. Buyers need (or at least they think they do!) big walls to hang these canvases. Storing unsold work is a logistical nightmare. The cost and skill required in the building of large frames and canvases isn’t inconsequential either. So why persist?
Mark likes the fact that his figures are in-your-face, real-life sized figures. When viewing the paintings, these people are in the room with you, and the space they inhabit melds with the real space of the room, offering an opening into another world. For me in the gallery, it is as if I am in a hallway, and each painting represents an open door that I could step through into another world; colourful, sexy, fun, chaotic and slightly disturbing.
Mark talks about how oblivious we are to what is going on around us as we seek to be entertained; paradoxically, his paintings are entertaining invitations into that which we are oblivious to.
Bikes and Barbies continues at Artful : The Gallery until June 12th.