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Mark Mullin View CV More Galleries
angels stuck in a low orbit, 2013 after the deluge, 2013
its a family thing, 2013 acrobat, 2013
under cushioning skies, 2012 caught under a collapsing light, 2013
cosmetic debris, 2013 a place from which to gaze, 2013
comical condensation, 2013 things that linger, 2012
downpour, 2013 the reappearing act, 2013
falling when plotting 2009 an affecting pull, 2013

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MARK MULLIN lives and works in Calgary, Alberta


In 1998, Mullin received his M.F.A in Studio Arts from Concordia University in Montreal. Presently, the artist resides in Calgary and teaches at The Alberta College of Art and Design.

Mark Mullin’s paintings are square with an increased depth that forces them into the viewers’ space and face. The painting’s width serves as a balance to the thickly woven and structured brushstrokes that often extend above and beyond the picture plane. The canvases teem with luxurious organic forms that contrast with flat geometric structures and hover above a seemingly limitless space. The random quality of the work belies their thoughtful preparation.

Mullin’s paintings offers a multiplicity of references that straddle notions of what constitutes the abstract and the representational. His unique pictorial language, derived primarily from urban graffiti, physics diagrams, and comics, becomes a vehicle to explore the various states of matter that coexist in our daily lives.

While Mullin’s drawings repeat many of the shapes and patterns inherent to his work, their delicacy and quiet poetry contrasts with the bravura of the paintings.


My recent work attempts to offer a multiplicity of references that straddle notions of what constitute the abstract and the representational. Though calculated in their placement and execution, the arrangement of reoccurring forms make little literal sense yet possess enough fleeting familiarity to engage the viewer in a game of deduction. Somewhere a narrative lurks. Yet whatever gains are made by reading into possible allusions (to biological/atomic forms, urban graffiti, comic books, Celtic knots), a summation of either original intent or final result is to rest quizzically out of reach. That which declares itself so apparently forthright and boisterous perhaps conceals as much as it reveals The vocabulary of forms and surfaces seem to necessitate and command their exact locale within their spatial field, yet are conditioned by a sense that catalytic chain reactions push the paint - paint as organic form and symbol of abstract form - out of bounds.

The paintings are square, with an increased depth that forces them into in our personal space and face. Brash and beefy, they assume a presence that refuses to function typically as an illusionistic window where paint describes form. The thick, woven brush-stroke structure suggests an organism undergoing catalytic proliferation, rapidly regenerating itself and spreading beyond the painting’s perimeter, whereas the work’s girth seems a necessary counterpoint to the packed surfaces with their conflicting temperaments and stylistic knuckle balls. Writhing tubular forms negotiate for space and control with flat, monochrome circles. Perhaps one suspects that behind their tight geometry there is housed the hard-wiring, cogs, residual energies, chemical leaks and whatever else that was necessary to push them to the forefront. These seemingly playful works are to teeter on the edge of a pending crisis. Their frivolous "silly" colours and forms negotiate within their allotted sector, but to alter the present dialogue (by nudging one circle a little left?) might kick start an uncontrollable system meltdown. Here our unseen abstract reality ( the place of 'superstrings' fashioned in bathtub toy colours) is hinged upon the ridiculous which is also the imperative. This dialectic establishes a state of suspended animation, as if the paintings are being made and unmade at the same time. Another way of stating this, is that the paintings seem to be forever under construction or deconstruction, falling apart and coming together.

It is my strategy that the origin(s) and reference(s) for these works change with interpretation. An organic thread-like filament of paint appears biological, then shifts to Japanese writing found on food packaging, then again to tag-like names from street graffiti. Pockets of deep recessive space dissolve, suggesting a "pre-world", which in turn is swallowed by replicating forms, oddly autonomous yet keenly interested in symbiosis. No form settles into character for long before an alternate proposition comes to light. The result is something of an impenetrable "catch me if you can" engagement. The act of looking becomes a fool's game of defining.

It is my hope that the works' resiliency lies with the dilemma posed by their flippancy and self concern; the dilemma of deciding whether the paintings are all smiles and teasing, or deeply dismissive of any claim to a place in the serious canon of painting. Perhaps if a cartoon of molecular activity were capable of being haunted, it would look and function like these paintings.

Mark Mullin

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