Mark Merrikin

I work instinctively and directly, with an intent to fold the viewer into moments of personal exchange. I work between pencil, paint, and spray paint, using the figure, patterns, and shifting surfaces to describe intimate, interior moments of connection between friends and family.

The subject of my paintings is often very personal, but I approach it with a sense of vagueness, allowing the materials to inform the work. I know that painting and making is a way to pass the time; it isn’t always fun or good, but I’m privileged to make art that is reflective of my experience in the world. As a result, I occasionally sort through my confusion and land on visual niceties that express ideas through persistence, play, and chance. 

My first solo show, With Fairies at The Egg & Dart in February 2021, was a culmination of materials, colours and experiences. The bright palette stubbornly juxtaposed the raw, fleeting, and sad imagery. I predominantly made the work in the unit where my partner and I lived, just off the historic Wentworth Street in Port Kembla, New South Wales. The tightness of the living arrangement translated in the works compositionally, while the social intricacies of the area informed the subject matter. Included in the show were cement paintings and naïve figurative sculptures. The use of cement felt like an honest way to reflect living experiences. As a material, I think that cement offers exciting opportunities when used as visual language. 

got the mobs is my upcoming show at The Egg & Dart later this year. The work in this show is a continuation of the loosely biographical themes I explored in With Fairies, although it edges toward greater moody territory, like a diary entry with visual materials. I continue to use cement, though with more focus on structural components to blur the line between sculpture and painting. The exterior architecture surrounding me in the industrial town of Port Kembla slips into my work more, with glimpses through windows, verandah railings, and bushes. It’s an organic extension for me to use cement to explore these interesting forms. 

Recently, I have taken a more considered approach to my underpainting and palette. My intent is to resolve my paintings with patience and stuttering confidence which has seen me consciously and meticulously sanding back and layering over months. Moving from an apartment to a house has encouraged a more patient approach to my work, allowing my partner and I a studio and more space. I’m now able to work across multiple paintings, setting some off to the side to breathe when they reach a point of frustration. 

The bright palette seen in the exhibition With Fairies has been muted in my recent works, where I’ve placed more scrutiny on tonal values. The changing palette is possibly connected to my mood, but isn’t intentional or explicit. A series of small bath and bed paintings made in late 2021 and early 2022 saw a heavily muted palette in comparison to earlier work. In recent, larger paintings over the course of a similar period, I have been compelled to work a little more colour into the compositions. One consistency in my palette is a strong use of purples.

The artworks writhing into a sort of magical abyss and dwarfed by couch and feeling, both 2021–2022,  are informed by the painfully drawn-out process of my partner’s beautiful dogs passing away four months apart. I didn’t grow up with pets and the way the diagnosis, terminal illness, and ultimate death of both affected us was shattering. I started these paintings in October 2021, and completed them in April 2022. They were a healthy way for me to grieve. 

My subject matter is personal, reflecting on my own, my partner’s, and friends’ human experiences, often ambiguously engaging in a vulnerable moment or an emotional event. This sets a loose infrastructure for me to explore the opportunities presented by various materials as a form of expression. I can be easily influenced by material, colour, and form amidst the process of making a work. Though it may not necessarily be obvious to the viewer, I strive to allow them a sense of freedom when reading into my work. I hope the imagery and materials stretch beyond any ideas laid out with the subject matter. 

This article was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 59, 2022. 

got the morbs
5 – 27 August 2022
The Egg & Dart, Wollongong

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