MAN ON THE MOON
THIS MONTH, CALGARY ARTS GOERS WILL BE TREATED TO THE FIRST S0LO SHOW OF ABSTRACT MODERNIST MARK MULLIN. A SUDDEN CHANGE IN PRESSURE IS A BOLD EXPLORATION OF THE FINE LINE BETWEEN CHAOS AND ORDER, EXAMINED THROUGH THE PRINCIPLES AND MYSTICISM OF THE UNIVERSE
MARK MULLIN APPEARS to be the anti-realist darling some of us modernists were waiting for. Mullin has been steadily carving his niche in this town as an abstract artist for the past three years, and is ready to step into the
spotlight this month with his premier Calgary solo show, A Sudden Change in Pressure at the Paul Kuhn Gallery.
Mullin is a multi-threat esthete who divides his time between painting, drawing and
teaching both disciplines at the Alberta College of Art and Design. This last role is key to Mullin's existence in Calgary: An Edmontonian by birth and a graduate from Concordia's MFA program in Studio Arts in 1998, Mullin lived in Montreal for five years until he was recruited by ACAD to teach first and second year painting and drawing.
As an artist, Mullin treats both art disciplines separately, which stabilizes his creative practice. "For me painting is like breathing in, while drawing is like exhaling," he says. To maintain this artistic equilibrium, Mullin always applies his interest in physical
science, quantum mechanics and chaos of making sense of reality beyond our scope of sight," he says. But Mullin's artistic execution is one of vibrant colours, texture and contemporary elements—a far cry from an average biochemistry textbook diagram. "My work is not just cold science but also a comment that our world is possibly a cartoon-like place of bizarre happenings and ridiculousness."
Mullin’s paintings are created with traditional oil paint, but with traditional oil paint, but with a modern arrangement on canvas. Elements such as graffiti tags and Looney-Tune colour sensibilities are immediate and recognizable, but at the same time their placement and movement command our attention. “Once my paintings make me stop and scratch my head, then I know I’m on the right track,” he laughs.
Compared to his past works, which appeared compressed and tightly packed, the new pieces for A Sudden Change in Pressure are on a much larger scale allowing the work to “open up” and have breathing space. A Sudden Change in Pressure is a series of paintings that looks like they are on the verge of collapse: Mullin orchestrates a painting where it seems to be a crisis point – that if one element moves, there would be turbulence melt-down. He describes the chaotic event this way: “It’s like being in an airplane cabin and if a hole were to expose itself in this perfect balance, there would be turbulence and everything goes haywire due to the sudden change in air pressure. It is fascinating how chaos and order sit in each other like a series of Russian dolls.”
Though abstract in their vocabulary of forms, Mullin hopes that these paintings will hint at aspects that compromise our daily lives, such as predictability laced with pockets of unavoidable flux, or weighted tension played out with comical bravado. In other words, what we see as mundane or routine can quickly shift and place us in a state of uncertainty or insecurity. “These are a few paths that I hope viewers will find themselves looking down when engaging with the work.”
The concept behind A Sudden Change in Pressure began last summer at the Cooper Union School Art Residency in New York City, where Mullin was the only Canadian artist accepted into the program. “As a contemporary artist, New York city is where you plug in your battery and recharge. The city’s kinetic energy washes over you; I was working way more than I thought!”
In the earlier years of his career, Mullin was a guest student studying printmaking at Hocschule fur Bildede Kunste, in Hamburg Germany as well as a residency and an exhibit, Slo’ Mo’, at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Through his career, Mullin is constantly exploring ways to comment on out reality through his works. He is a recipient of multiple grants from the Canada Council, Quebec Arts Council and the Alberta Foundation for Arts. In 2004 he was a Western Canadian Finalist for the RBC New Canadian Painting Competition. His painting and drawings also appear in collections of the Musee de Quebec, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, as well as numerous private collectors.
“My work is also currently on display in a group painting exhibit ‘About Time’ at the Nickel Arts Museum at the University of Calgary,” he notes. Mullin says it has been a ling time since he has shown in a city of his residence. “It will be a great opportunity to have my local community come out and support me.”
>> By Lincoln Philip
>> Avenue Magazine March 2006