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P A I N T E R S   O N   P A I N T I N G

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E L L E N   A L T F E S T 

A P O S T O L O S   G E O R G I O U

I M R A N   Q U R E S H I 

H E L E N   J O H N S O N

H E N R Y   T A Y L O R 

M A R K   S A D L E R 

R O S E   W Y L I E

L Y N E T T E    Y I A D O M - B O A K Y E

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At a time of revolution in digital technologies,

when making extraordinary images has never

been technically easier, painting persists.

Jennifer Higgie asked eight artists to share their

thoughts on the whys and wherefores of

figurative painting

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6

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Mark Sadler

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Painting gives me a sense of the world as I’ve lived it, since I paint about

experiences and encounters. I meet my several selves somewhere in the

midst of painting: one is a kind of itinerant intellectual who wants to use

painting to make a point about history, culture and language; the other is a

hollow shell through which painting passes, making weird noises as it goes.

When you paint, you’re in competition with painters of the past. You

say to them: ‘It was easier for you. There was less competition from other

art forms, lucky bastards!’ You confront art history attempting to do something

almost impossible: to interrupt its voracious flow with your own

subjective sense of the world hoping to obtain a result that will feel active

and not subservient to the past. This process can be humbling, since the

paintings of artists you most admire continually rise up in the midst of your

own work.

When I paint, the figures – which are always recollections of experiences

and never simply images absorbed through visual grazing – are

amongst the least solid or most volatile of any element. Photography does

a particularly good job of representing the surface of a body – the wrinkles,

bruises and faded tattoos – but my approach is to step away from those

levels of information. People are the least permanent things in the world,

moving through it and leaving behind the solid phenomena of chairs, rooms

and windows for the next lot to inhabit. With that in mind, I construct my

figures in line or as silhouettes, thinking mostly about movement and translucency.

The resultant schematic shells are there for the viewer to inhabit,

rather than as symbolic protagonists to animate a narrative. I work from

life, from memory, from sketches or using photographs as aide-mémoires.

Our perception has many subjective filters – the mind, the body, the

memory – and because of painting’s huge range of possibilities from representation

to pure abstraction, it has the ability to invent and find surprising

new forms for non-visible phenomena. The coloured vectors that often

traverse the space in my paintings, for example in Breakers (2012), are an

unconscious outpouring that takes the form of a spatialized cosmic doodle.

I prefer being described as an ‘artist’ to a ‘figurative painter’, but

please don’t ask me to talk about my ‘practice’ unless you want me to refer

you to my brother who is a dentist.

I chose to become an artist in order to live out a radical form of freedom,

traversing different territories and languages, seeking to create a

holding structure for cultural heterogeneity in my work. My earlier paintings

stay true to a personal encounter but may also presently offer a passing

geo-political topicality. Seneca (2010), however – a bunch of empty chairs

in a public space – is a painting specifically about politics. The historian

Jean-François Chevrier has spoken about ‘the politics of the empty chair’

in my work. These chairs hold a question about who might sit in them:

I want to find a common space for anybody to enter, although I know not

everybody will.

A figure seen from behind allows the viewer to access the picture in a

direct way. This strategy makes the entry point to the picture easy enough.

After that, other more complex registers reveal themselves gradually

through sustained contemplation; philosophical, historical, mysterious and

poetic layers that will hopefully coalesce into an experience of pleasure.

Mark Sadler is based in Glasgow, uk, and Berlin, Germany. In 2013, he

had a solo show at Krome Gallery, and his work was included in ‘Drifting’ at

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, both in Berlin. In 2014, he will present ‘Symbolic

Ecstatic’ with Elin Jakobsdottir at Fiction House, Glasgow.

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