Mark Mulhern

ARtist Statement

My work deals with the human figure and temporality. The figures in my work are caught in subtle gestures that suggest introspection and unselfconscious states of being. I want the viewer to identify with the figure through an empathetic relationship with the gesture. The isolation of the figure in the field is meant to focus the viewer on the subtle language of the body and limit the visual information to its greatest simplicity. Like the experience of a traveler in a foreign culture whose language skills are not proficient, I want the viewer's sensitivity to body language to heighten for the sake of connection.

The field the figures occupy plays an important role in the way the paintings resonate. The field acts as both a container and a membrane or veil through which the figure emerges or recedes. For the most part, the field is neutral and atmospheric, made up of layer after layer of thinly applied paint. The push/pull process of working the figure into the right location enriches the surface and creates the emotional tone of the work. I am trying to make very slow paintings that require and reward patient looking. They are made slowly and work on the viewer over time, revealing nuance slowly. The moment fixed on the canvas is transitory, quiet and reflective of our temporary condition.

I choose to paint because of the fullness of the process. It involves my imagination at a deep and mysterious level, while remaining a very physical activity that involves all kinds of motions from stretching the canvas to applying the paint. It is this loving and intimate gesture of applying paint that appeals to me most. The types of marks that are possible from this activity of decision making are endless. The risks, erasures, revisions and resolutions that go into the work are layered in its strata. The end result is the sum of this history. I want my paintings to speak to this process and also to speak to the history of painting. As a subject, the figure has been there from the beginning. It has been used to express conditions that require identification on a human level. I am using the figure because I want to connect with this figure. I want to empathize and become this figure for the duration of the painting. I want to know what the figure is feeling through an empathetic connection in my own body. It is my responsibility as an artist to provide this opportunity for the viewer and to be able to organize events in the painting so that the viewer may have a meaningful experience.