Mark Kaufman is an incredibly talented artist who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine art, the oldest school of classic figurative art in the country. He has exhibited all across the country, and we’re honored to be showing some of his work at Miri Gallery’s exhibit, “Welcome to My World: Mental Health Awareness Through Art.” Below are some of Mark’s thoughts on how his work relates to the theme of our upcoming exhibit:
“As a matter of personality or because of the bipolar I see the world as existing in shadow, light, line, space blending into each other. What appears solid is, in fact, illusion. Some artists show solid objects in some relationship to each other. Mine are as much space sometimes as paint. They are layered transparent and semi-opaque washes and lines. Thus, the paper, empty space that nonetheless forms part of the illusion of solidity, is an integral part of the image.
Wherever you see what reads as white in the paintings is the paper bare of paint. I can choose how much to control the water and paint, but I can choose not to control it as well. I can paint dry paint on dry paper and control it as absolutely as possible. I can paint it wet on wet and allow the water and paint to work alone.
If you look at the painting “Mud” you can see the paper through the paint, and see how in some places I have laid the paint solidly and in others I have let it flow of its own accord. Like the moods of bipolar, they are subject sometimes to some management, or to some measure of functional coping, but sometimes run of their own accord with a life of their own disturbing sleep with hopelessness or with vivid clarity and racing thoughts. My art is fueled by these moods. Mud describes as best I can the feeling of exhaustion and hopelessness that drags one into an abyss. Lamentation describes the pain.
Lamentation is a woodcut. A wooden block, one for each color, is carved with a razor blade and chisels; inked and then printed by hand. Obviously that is a far more controlled medium than watercolor. Again the paper itself-the empty space-functions to define the forms and to act as a color in the work. Again the lines are broken. Again some part of the image creation lets the razor work itself- I control the cut as much as I choose. The work is “realism”, but very far from any attempt to be photographic. Illusion is reality underlies the work. “Normal” people may think that the shadows that move in the grass at the edge of vision are not real while the form seen clearly is real. Perhaps both are as real as the other and it is only the mind that attaches the label.
Grief is also a watercolor. Here the paint is layer more fully. As a child spinning between moods I imagined that the whole world balanced on knife-edge, but they were good at concealing reality. I taught myself to conceal behind masks that, repeating myself, were both real and hiding reality. What do doves or white pigeons mean? I had no idea when I painted the image. I start with a conception that pleases me. Sometimes there are explanations, but often not. If there is hidden meaning it is usually not the object. I see meaning only looking backwards. The meaning of an image is largely what the observer brings to it. They create in response-or I hope they do. Sometimes the meaning they create is very far from anything I might see or have “intended.” I hope you find meaning or simply enjoy them. My wife finds some of the work disturbing. Maybe I hope you do too.
Leda and the Swan, the last of my images in the show, is a variation on a Greek Myth. Zeus descends from Olympus disguised as a swan and rapes Leda. In this image the outcome for Zeus is quite different. The image also illustrates again how all things exist in relationship to each other. Black becomes blacker placed next to the light and visa versa. The faces and postures carry the emotion when we from our own experience understand the message.”
You can view more of Mark’s work at Miri Gallery on September 16, and on his website at markkaufman.30art.com.