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Through the Hedge - as seen on TV!

ART NORTH | BLOG

On Watching

January 10, 2019

Ian McKay

From my desk, I can see from my window all kinds of comings and goings in the village here, but I also have a prime view looking out across the road to the studio of artist Mark Edwards. I guess that there’s something of the voyeur in us all to a greater or lesser degree, but while I work I can also get distracted, and my mind wanders, taking in the view. For example, I know when Mark Edwards is in his studio because the blinds are up, and I know that in the lead up to his recent exhibition in London last November, the blinds were up a lot. Had the time have been right to have found a way of reviewing that exhibition, I would have liked to have done so, but it just didn't coincide with a gap in other pressing deadlines. Certainly, I look forward to reviewing his next, though, as I find his work hugely revealing about our times, and Mark Edwards’ work deals with a form of voyeurism, too.

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Mark EdwardsThrough The Hedge, 2014. © The artist.

Like all voyeurs, one can get really quite enmeshed in certain details and, in a way, that form of long hard looking is perfect training for becoming quite nimble with what (to some) can often be blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments. Committed voyeurs notice things that others tend not to. Taking a break from a long day at my desk, for example, on the occasions that I watch a TV drama, if I have not fully ‘wound down’, I find my mind wandering as I watch intently, still. Why that camera angle? Why that location? Do I know that street? What significance does the architecture of that building (in which the central character lives) tell us about the backstory to their character – that kind of thing. If I’m honest, during a recent episode of the BBC crime drama Luther, I found myself thinking more about the brutalist architectural interior of the house in which a serial killer lived than I did about who his victims were.

Luther, for anyone who doesn’t possess a TV or who hasn’t seen it, is described by the BBC as a “crime drama series starring Idris Elba as a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can't always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions.” In Episode 3 of Series 5, the teaser-synopsis asks: “With his friend in peril and a young woman kidnapped by a relentless serial killer, can Luther protect the innocent while preventing [old school career criminal] Cornelius's violent revenge from consuming him? Who is Luther willing to save, and who can't he bear to lose?” Well, frankly, I didn't really care that much, but what really caught my interest while watching this episode was one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments as our serial killer entered a room to pour his wife a glass of wine laced with Rohypnol (the intention being that she would sleep while he went about his killing spree).

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Luther (Series 5, Episode 3) © BBC, 2019.

About 5 minutes into the episode, though, and there on the wall of the killer’s house was one of Mark Edwards’ paintings (rather suitably titled Through the Hedge, 2014). Stop! Back up! Did I see that? Sure enough, there was Edwards’ painting, hung on a poured concrete wall and backgrounding our serial killer, wine bottle in hand. I don’t know what it must feel like for an artist to find that their art is thought suitable by those responsible for dressing a TV set as the house of a serial killer, replete with art collection. I’m thinking it may well be rather curious to see on screen in the comfort of their own home, maybe even interesting, but, if thought about too hard, rather disconcerting, too. I suppose there is some solace to be found in the fact that it probably says more about the production design team than it does about the artist’s work, but I really don’t know.

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Luther (Series 5, Episode 3) © BBC, 2019.

What I do know is that while I watched Edwards from my desk, last summer, going to and from his studio while I was here writing, he was in the process of painting works not too dissimilar from Through The Hedge. Then, just a few days ago, there was I, all watched out, watching a serial watcher (and killer) backgrounded by Through the Hedge as he waited for his wife to succumb to the Rohypnol so she could no longer watch him. Maybe I should stop watching Mark Edwards going to and from his studio each day, and go and ask him about this (seeing as his studio is no more than forty or fifty metres from my window). The trouble is, I don’t want him to think I’ve been watching him too often. It could seem… well, maybe a little creepy.

[EDIT: Mark Edwards has been in touch with me to say that the he has tracked down the building that I refer to above. It is The Grey House, designed by architects Eldridge Smerin and inspired by another Eldridge Smerin house that won awards from the RIBA and Civic Trust. His painting is still in situ: http://www.85swainslane.co.uk/. It seems it was not placed by set designers but is the property of the current owner.]

https://artnorth-magazine.com/recent-arts-news/2019/1/10/on-watching

Catto Gallery Solo Exhibition 8th October - 5th November 2018

The obvious question to ask when looking at a Mark Edwards work is: what’s going on in this painting? But after a few minutes, you realise the question you should be asking is: what the heck is going on outside it?  Of course, you’ll never really find out. Mark’s work is built on riddles buried inside enigmas. It’s wilfully opaque. And all the more wonderful for that. The new collection is full of examples. Take Three Men, Three Trees And a Train. At first glance, there appears to be just two men and no discernible locomotive in this beguiling painting. Then you realise there is a third man, out of the frame and casting a shadow. There’s a train too – but only in the form of an elusive puff of smoke.  Another one? How about Still Waiting for the Door to Open. Again, what door? There is no door. A house, yes. But no door. Just those two men: those familiar Edwards men standing in the snow in the hope that something might happen. In fact, the strange doorless house appears multiple times in the new collection. It’s also in Looking for the Shadow, for example, where two men search for an inexplicably lost silhouette.  It’s tempting to see the door-free residence as a metaphor for Mark’s painting style as a whole. They are familiar and reassuring. But, hang on, there’s no obvious way in!  Mark’s growing legion of collectors wouldn’t have it any other way. They don’t want answers. They want snow, hats, coats, trees, smoke and balloons. They want crows that don’t actually appear inside the frame.  In short, they want the White Wood.  This is where Mark has been living (at least in the world of his paintings) since 2007. The ‘discovery’ of the wood was a turning point. By this time, Mark had been a professional artist for nearly 30 years, with varying degrees of success. In 1974 he had re-located with his young family to a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands. He continued to paint, but also worked on the neighbouring Duke of Westminster estate. By the 1980s, he had a flourishing career as a book jacket illustrator.  His ‘white wood’ moment came when he happened across a 1950s photo in a magazine of a man dressed in bowler hat and overcoat. He was flooded with creative ideas, and almost immediately changed the focus of his work. "My oil paintings were very traditional,” he remembers. “Although I was building up a reputation amongst the shooting fraternity, I was becoming increasingly disenchanted artistically with its creative limitations."  Ten years later, the white wood is still whispering its secrets to Mark. And he’s passing them on to us in his fabulous paintings. This is his fourth exhibition at the Catto. You should check it out. We have a door.

The obvious question to ask when looking at a Mark Edwards work is: what’s going on in this painting? But after a few minutes, you realise the question you should be asking is: what the heck is going on outside it?

Of course, you’ll never really find out. Mark’s work is built on riddles buried inside enigmas. It’s wilfully opaque. And all the more wonderful for that. The new collection is full of examples. Take Three Men, Three Trees And a Train. At first glance, there appears to be just two men and no discernible locomotive in this beguiling painting. Then you realise there is a third man, out of the frame and casting a shadow. There’s a train too – but only in the form of an elusive puff of smoke.

Another one? How about Still Waiting for the Door to Open. Again, what door? There is no door. A house, yes. But no door. Just those two men: those familiar Edwards men standing in the snow in the hope that something might happen. In fact, the strange doorless house appears multiple times in the new collection. It’s also in Looking for the Shadow, for example, where two men search for an inexplicably lost silhouette.

It’s tempting to see the door-free residence as a metaphor for Mark’s painting style as a whole. They are familiar and reassuring. But, hang on, there’s no obvious way in!

Mark’s growing legion of collectors wouldn’t have it any other way. They don’t want answers. They want snow, hats, coats, trees, smoke and balloons. They want crows that don’t actually appear inside the frame.

In short, they want the White Wood.

This is where Mark has been living (at least in the world of his paintings) since 2007. The ‘discovery’ of the wood was a turning point. By this time, Mark had been a professional artist for nearly 30 years, with varying degrees of success. In 1974 he had re-located with his young family to a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands. He continued to paint, but also worked on the neighbouring Duke of Westminster estate. By the 1980s, he had a flourishing career as a book jacket illustrator.

His ‘white wood’ moment came when he happened across a 1950s photo in a magazine of a man dressed in bowler hat and overcoat. He was flooded with creative ideas, and almost immediately changed the focus of his work. "My oil paintings were very traditional,” he remembers. “Although I was building up a reputation amongst the shooting fraternity, I was becoming increasingly disenchanted artistically with its creative limitations."

Ten years later, the white wood is still whispering its secrets to Mark. And he’s passing them on to us in his fabulous paintings. This is his fourth exhibition at the Catto. You should check it out. We have a door.

Enigmatic paintings by Mark Edwards on show at Catto Gallery

 

Edwards's artworks draw comparisons with masters such as L S Lowry and Edward Hopper, and, with his penchant for bowler hats, Magritte too. This is his second show at Catto, and these new works are a continuation of The White Wood series, which Edwards has worked on for the past seven years.

 

For the full article on Creative Review read here.

Scottish Highlands based artist Mark Edwards brings his enigmatic White Wood to Catto Gallery

Mark Edwards, the fine artist living and working deep in the Scottish Highlands, returns to Catto Gallery with the exhibition of his latest series from ‘The White Wood’.

A modern master in a very British form of surrealism, Edwards paints graphic contemplative studies of characters and repeat motifs, captured within the hauntingly mesmeric landscape of The White Wood. His paintings have a timeless quality, transcending us out of real life.

In this new series, the bold compositions, the bowler-hatted gentlemen and recurring set of motifs of black crows, steam trains, empty buildings are at once enigmatic, ambiguous and even darkly comic. Who are these ambiguous gentlemen? How did they get there? What is their business in the wood?

For some of us this marks a return to the world of The White Wood (Catto Gallery 2012), for Mark Edwards it is a hauntingly enigmatic landscape he has spent the last seven years exploring.

For me The White Wood is to do with silence, memory, separation and things that I still don’t really understand, occasionally humorous yet sometimes disturbing. But where I once felt uncomfortable and tense, now I’m far more at home with the surreal and intangible.

The exhibition runs from 2nd to 21st October at the acclaimed Catto Gallery, Hampstead featuring 24 new original canvases from Mark Edwards. Join us for the opening night hosted by the artist himself on 2nd October.


For more information please visit Catto Gallery,

or to view a catalog of all available works please click here.