Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mark Crawford: a conversation with the artist.

All images on this post are © 2007 by Mark Crawford and are posted here with his permission.

“I’m not an angry person,” Mark Crawford said, his pleasantly modulated voice revealing his Midwestern origin. He was responding to my observation that the untitled painting shown above seemed to me a visual expression of ire. Looking at that painting again, I saw that my eye had first been caught by the slashes of red and their contrast with the dark ground on which they are arranged, but had not focused on the broad swaths of white that overlay them, some with descending rivulets that “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.”*

Complex, and energetic; we could agree on that. Energy also suffused a smaller painting, called Game Machine, that hung on the wall of Mark's studio to the left of the untitled painting (see image below).

With an eruption of light shading to dark green spreading across a red ground, and with traces of white, it brought to my mind the Dylan Thomas poem, "The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower."

The painting that hung below Game Machine, titled Success in College (see below), has a quieter dynamism, expressed through subtle variations of tone and texture.

Garden Charade, seen below, is, as its name suggests, playful, but its ground of magenta shading into deep purple suggests an undertow of romantic passion.

There is a yin as well as a yang to Mark’s art. Much of his work, including the paintings shown above, is within the abstract expressionist canon, although these works also seem suffused with the introspective quality of a Vuillard or Bonnard. However, in my visit to his studio, I saw other works that exemplified a different, more formal non-representational tradition. The most prominent of these was a large canvas on which was a lattice of green tendrils intertwined with yellow, on a field of white (see below), titled Living Uneasily. I said this reminded me of Islamic art. He said he had spent some time in the Middle East, where he traveled in Turkey and Egypt, and wouldn’t be surprised if that had affected his work.

A native of Chicago, Mark studied at that city’s renowned Art Institute, from which he received a Bachelor in Fine Arts. He later did graduate study at Yale, leading to an M.F.A., and after that moved to New York City. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Brooklyn Heights.

Update: You can find images of Mark's recent works on his blog here.

*The Merchant of Venice, IV, i.


  1. one need not be an angry person to feel ire. in fact, i'd say creatively expressing anger is the best way to avoid being an angry person.

  2. Twiff,

    "Ire" was my choice of word, perhaps infelicitous. When I first looked at the painting, I said to Mark that it seemed to me an angry work, which is what elicited his response. Seeing it a second time, I saw that it was more reflective, though, as I noted, also energetic, than angry.

  3. Thanks for posting this art. Inspired and inspiring

  4. i've noticed that i often don't have the same reactions to paintings, especially the non-representational ones, that people around me have, or even that the artist was trying to evoke.

    a group of us, all friends from work, were "touring" an artist's studio one day, and everyone remarked on a particularly arresting painting, all wavy blues and aquas, with a row of smiling stick figures along the bottom. they all saw it as peaceful and happy, but my first reaction was fear: these people were all lined up along the bottom of the ocean, smiling, not yet realizing that they were dead.

    as you might have guessed, i wasn't an entirely happy person at that point in life.

    off topic [and don't feel obliged to play if you don't want to]