Horses for cour­ses

The Herald - Arts - - COVER STORY - Mark Wallinger Mark opens at the DCA, Dundee and the Fruit­mar­ket Gallery, Ed­in­burgh on March 4 and runs un­til June 4.

had also been nom­i­nated in 1995, but Damien Hirst won it that year with Mother and Child Di­vided, a cow and calf mounted in formalde­hyde. Wallinger’s A Real Work of Art, a real life race­horse was an also-ran.

He’s al­ways been a po­lit­i­cal artist work­ing from a left­ist per­spec­tive. That’s not easy in 2017. Mark, I have to ask, what is the pur­pose of art in times of cri­sis? “Well, to try and be ef­fec­tive. At the mo­ment ev­ery­one needs to pull to­gether re­ally. I don’t know. I look at it and think Don­ald Trump’s go­ing to im­plode.

“I keep mean­ing to look up an old episode of The Twi­light Zone where a town’s un­der the tyranny of a six-yearold boy. It’s a bit like that re­ally.”

Per­haps one of his most lauded works was Ecce Homo. In 1999 he cre­ated a mar­ble resin life-sized statue of Je­sus Christ. It be­came the first sculp­ture to be mounted on the empty plinth in Trafal­gar Square. That, he says now, was prob­a­bly the most in­stan­ta­neous idea he ever had.

“At the end of the phone call I sort of knew what I was go­ing to do. The fact that Christ and Chris­tian­ity was the one thing it seemed one couldn’t men­tion com­ing up to the Mil­len­nium was quite strange. ”

THE statue is in stor­age al­though it should make a reap­pear­ance this year. Not in Scot­land though. Some­times, he says, re­flect­ing on art­work he did years ago can feel like look­ing back through the wrong end of the te­le­scope. “If you still like them there’s a mix­ture of eu­pho­ria and melan­choly.”

The id Paint­ings, though, are too new to prompt any mourn­ing of the pass­ing of time. They are a con­tin­u­a­tion of Wallinger’s on­go­ing fas­ci­na­tion with self-por­trai­ture, one that be­gan 10 years ago and has now brought him full cir­cle back to paint­ing.

“I had moved into a new stu­dio which was a very tall fac­tory space. I or­dered some tall stretch­ers that were made so they were twice my height and my span in width.”

“I was in­ter­ested to see what would hap­pen if I pushed it to re­ally epic pro­por­tions. And to­wards the end I started us­ing my hands to paint and then I made one that was en­tirely hand prints us­ing both hands.

“And then fi­nally the penny dropped. I’m a bit slow on the up­take. It took me un­til I was 50 un­til I started us­ing my name Mark as a pun.”

The idea was to have his two hands do the same thing on op­po­site sides of the can­vas; in ef­fect to cre­ate a mir­ror im­age. “The first three I made in one day and they were just feel­ing about, step­ping back and see­ing the record of the traces of this thing. It was kind of blind per­for­mance. Then I flipped the thing the other way so some­thing that was al­ready kind of in­trigu­ing and strange was es­tranged fur­ther by be­ing up­side down.

“I sup­pose the other thing about the paint­ings was I had to psych my­self up. They had to be very in­stan­ta­neous, not least be­cause it was black acrylic paint which dries rapidly and I didn’t al­low my­self to paint wet over dry. So things had to be re­solved in one ses­sion.”

Other new works in­clude iPhonein­spired works such as Ego – a take on Michelangelo’s The Cre­ation of Adam (“I hope that was dou­bly ironic about hubris. Michelangelo had the hubris to think to paint that in the first place.”) Then there is Or­rery, which came about be­cause he was look­ing af­ter his ill mother and to get wi-fi had to drive down to the lo­cal li­brary. That jour­ney meant he had to go around the same round­about ev­ery day. At one point he started film­ing the tree in the mid­dle of the round­about on ev­ery jour­ney. “The only so­phis­ti­ca­tion be­yond that was do­ing it with Blu-tack so I could keep my eyes on the road. I kept a steady 14 miles an hour, which is quite a nig­gly speed.”

Where there any beeped horns? “Oh, yeah. Ex­ple­tives, yeah.”

If any­thing, he says, such works are the re­sult of him learn­ing “to hang onto half an idea un­til it meets the other half. Pa­tience. That’s it, re­ally. And a sort of im­per­a­tive for mak­ing.” That’s the Protes­tant work ethic in him, he ad­mits. “There was a Pi­casso quote I came across the other day which I quite like. He said he be­lieved in in­spi­ra­tion but you have to be work­ing at the time.”

He is now in his late fifties and there has been some stock­tak­ing go­ing on of late. Hence his de­ci­sion to stop drink­ing. What was be­hind that any­way? “I needed to re­ally.”

Is he still a bet­ting man? “Do you know, I’m a big ab­steemer these days.”

What was the last bet I had? I had a friend who has a horse which had an each-way chance but aside from that … I still love horses and I still go from time to time and I have friends in that world. I used to bet ev­ery day, which is not a good thing.”

Did he usu­ally win? “No. No one does.”

In life at least. In art, Wallinger is still worth a punt.

Pho­to­graph: Oliver Goodrich

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.