Mark Halsey is a British painter and printmaker, currently studying BA Painting & Drawing at the University of Northampton (UON).
"I create playful, yet absurd, distorted, and sometimes a provocative view of the world around us."
Interview between ArtistsofMeraki (AOM) and Mark Halsey (MH):
AOM: What inspired you to start painting?
MH: As a kid I loved drawing and making things but never did anything until I hit my 50’s a bit of a regret that I didn’t start earlier, but better late than never they say.
Through an unusual set of circumstances I found myself with a bit of time on my hand, so I taught my self to draw reasonably well, with there being so many tutorials on Youtube that helped. I then did a few watercolour courses through an Art therapy recommendation, then BANG I am at University, a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, absolutely loved it.
AOM: What is your favourite painting and why?
MH: Favourite painting... hmmm... so many, but I would say it is Merry go Round by Mark Gertler, painted in 1916, an anti- war sentiment, there is no blood or gore in the painting but you can see the horror of war between the mix of civilians and armed forces , the painting was deemed too modern for its time and the press said it would be better placed in café than a gallery. It has been acknowledged as one of the greatest ever war paintings... so there press! you can find it in Tate Britain’s Permanent collection.
Merry Go Round (1916) - Mark Gertler
Oil on Canvas
H 189.2 x W 142.2 cm
Digital photograph: Photo © Tate
AOM: Are your paintings a comment on social or political issues? (can you explain the message behind one of your works)
MH: Consumerism, Greed and Politics all play a part in my paintings. It's funny,when I first started at UON I didn’t have an agenda or anything, but after a while you find what's important to you and why you want to make certain works. The theory lessons we had were so important to how I began my Social Pop surrealism as I call them. You are immersed with all these amazing artists with their own factures, beliefs etc... that I could not just paint a portrait or landscape anymore with nothing to say, I mean whats the point ? ‘ That’s a nice painting ‘ that’s not enough for me.
Do You Dream In Colour (2020)
Acrylic on canvas
3 x 1.5 Metres
For instance, In my painting Do You Dream In Colour, the Mastercard logo represents my own and others money worries, The two gnomes with their branded hats represent how child labour is still being used to produce our favourite sportswear, these big companies have made some progress, but children are still being used.
AOM: You often use digital manipulation and collage to help create the visual for your paintings, what attracted you to this style ?
MH: Yes, digital manipulation is a big part of how I compose a painting. The geometry of my imagery isn’t by chance, with Photoshop I can move imagery around to create a balance, I still like to make traditional ‘ Analogue ‘ collages, I am pretty nifty with a pair of scissors and its quite therapeutic, I literally have hundreds of cut outs at home, however Peter Blake has thousands so I have little way to go yet.
AOM: Who has been influential on your practice?
MH: The Pop artists of the late 50s and 60s undoubtedly have been my biggest influence with Rauchenberg and Rosenquist at the front, But the American David Salle is possibly my favourite as he is still making cutting-edge paintings, Although it might not show in my own work, Jeff Koons is also an influence, he is making beautiful, banal, consumerist Pop art. I went to his show in Oxford last year and I can honestly say I was taken aback by it, almost tearful with joy !
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