Featured Artist Mark Hanson


Please can you tell us about your artistic practice?

I am a figurative painter and I predominantly work from life. My practice revolves around plein air landscape painting, painting directly from the figure in the life room and working from my studio which is based in my home in North London.

Where do you see your work sitting in relation to figurative and abstract work?

Although my figurative practice engages entirely in the pursuit of the thing seen and observing from life, the formal qualities, the abstract nature of painting is of equal importance to my work and cannot be separated in terms of conceptual concerns and overall execution. I have always attempted to communicate through the language of paint and I believe that in my practice, this language is first and foremost derivative from observational drawing. Forms are ‘drawn out’ from the process of looking and observing. My aim is to discover the image through a series of hard won battles, which result in a collection of lost and won attempts. This continuous process, the act of constructing and deconstructing form, winning and losing the drawing, is of great value and interest within my work. This process creates different qualities of marks that exist along a continuum. All attempts are to render the thing seen but the nature of painting is built on complex paradoxical qualities. Form emerges, dissolves, re-appears and subsequently gets lost. It’s an ongoing search. My intension is to amalgamate these opposing, contradictory and separate languages into a coherent whole. The result being a fusion of marks that seem to have a dichotomist quality. Marks that seek to depict, represent and interpret form serve to construct, whereas marks that adhere to the flatness of the surface, and are by nature more raw & self-referential, are consequently de-constructing. Therefore, opposing forces are common themes in my work and my aim is to depict the tension that fuses both disparate parts. The result being a split, creating a fractured surface that suspends the subject in a state of flux. My interest within this spatial dichotomy, where edges meet, spill and bleed into each of its neighbouring, demarcated areas, is prevalent in the construction of both my figurative and landscape work.

What and whom are your influences?

The work of Cezanne has been of the greatest influence on my practice. I first came in contact with his work during the 1996 retrospective at the Tate. The impact of seeing late works such as the Mont Sainte-Victoire paintings was pivotal to my development as an artist. His work gave me permission to pursue an exploration of the language of paint. The Tate presented Cezanne as a painter’s painter and I think that this has remained true. Painters that have attempted to further this ‘new language’ have perhaps also became influences too. The achievements of Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Diebenkorn, De-kooning, Uglow are to name but a few. Their continuing influence is palpable in most artists oeuvre who are attempting to somehow carry this language further and to contribute to the ever on-going development of painting.

What art education have you received?

I studied Fine Art at Margaret Street, Birmingham School of art. I attended the university during the late 90’s, at a time when Britart was at its peak and when the practice of figurative painting was entirely questioned over the ever emerging, dominate practice of conceptual art. I learnt from the beginning that you had to have a sense of defiance in order to hold down a figurative practice. What my art education gave me was an opportunity to fight for my identity as a painter which laid down the foundation for my entire career. More recently, in 2014, I attended the Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School. The school was partly set up to counteract the lack of traditional skills being taught in art schools. It was an intense and exciting period and one that concluded some chapters in my art education. as an alumni, I have attended three separate art residencies in the Dumfries estate, which has greatly helped to develop my understanding and experience of landscape painting.

Where were you born / brought up and how has this affected your painting?

I was born in Birmingham. I grew up in a working class environment. Although both my parents were not artists, my two brothers and I would constantly draw. We were fortunate to have access to wide and open space, our home backed onto a large local park. This had an enormous affect on my development. It represented unadulterated freedom. a place of unlimited imaginative play. I think the main source of influence for my landscape work inadvertently derives from the nostalgic, memories that are intrinsically linked to this place and time of my life.

Do you have any shows coming up?

Earlier this year I had my first solo show at Mercer and Chance gallery in Shoreditch, London. I am currently in a group show called LandSCOPES at Tregony Art Gallery, Cornwall.

How do you juggle life and painting?

I divide my week in two. I teach communication through music to children with Special Needs. Its part-time, two days a week. The rest is dedicated to painting.

Do you Teach?

I am teaching with The New School of Art in 2017, which I an very much looking forward to. I regularly teach special needs children and it is a second passion. I have developed a music interactive practice in a North London School over the past 9 years. Music, like art has powerful qualities. It has its own language which can penetrate beyond other conventional approaches and means.

In practical terms, how do you organise your life? work / income / creative projects. What is a usual day for you?

Painting is a complex activity that requires daily commitment. Repetitious, regular contact is essential in order to break ground. I made the commitment to teach part-time in 2012 so to fully commit to my work. I therefore plan my life around my practice. it is difficult financially, but time is the ultimate commodity for any artist. My practice tends to be about full on engagement, which can often be difficult and intense. It has to exist away from comfort zones in order to safe guard against formulaic responses. Its essential to be tested. Plein air painting is constantly challenging. I can deal with most weather conditions but heavy wind is really difficult. During my life painting day I work two sittings back to back. Exhaustion can often unlock different responses. I often make my best work just at breaking point. It can be a cruel sport. Studio work tends to be a good balance. Its more of a methodical approach. The challenges are no less difficult but by comparison the studio is a kind of sanctuary.