Mark King is a multidisciplinary Barbadian artist who explores archetypes and social norms. Interested in notions of topography and megalography, Mark makes coded, often satirical work that highlights social phenomena. The son of a former diplomat, mark has called several places home. Growing up in the Bahamas, Belgium and the United Sates has left Mark with a unique perspective that directly influences his artistic practice.
Mark holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Photography from the Academy of Art University is San Francisco, California. In 2011 the Lucie Foundation handpicked Mark for their apprenticeship programme. During the same year he participated in a screen-printing residency at Alice Yard in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 2013, he participated in two residencies – Fresh Milk in Saint George, Barbados and Ateliers 89’ in Aruba for the Mondriaan Foundation’s Caribbean Linked II. Last year he released his first monograph, ‘Plastic’ through MOSSLESS publishing at The Newsstand in New York. Plastic has gone on to The 2013 New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, The 8Ball Zine Fair, the 2013 I Never Read Art Book Fair in Basel, Switzerland, and The 2014 LA Art Book Fair in the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. In July – August of 2014, Mark’s work was on display as part of the International Artist Initiated project (IAI) hosted by the David Dale Gallery & Studios as part of The Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, which took place alongside this year’s Commonwealth Games.
I was greeted by Versia Harris knocking out work in the studio to the sounds of a very eclectic playlist on the first day of the Fresh Milk Residency. I carved out a space in the reading room to get started and laid out my supplies.
I came in with an on-going project in mind. One that centers around the recent financial crisis and banking scandals of our time. The project has taken my work in new directions. And I have yet to make a photograph. I will continue down this path of exploration for the month that I am here.
Week one was more about feeling out the space. Creating from the heart of the Barbadian countryside is unlike anything I have experienced. Birds, wind chimes, cows, roosters, and rustling leaves make up the soundscape. It’s the perfect creative incubator.
The environment is also great for failing. Something I’m really enjoying during this residency. I brought a book with me from home on Origami that I had been meaning to try out for a while. Craft isn’t my strong suit, which gives me more reason to play with the medium. Origami takes a high level of concentration and its pursuit guarantees failure. It’s humbling to go through a stack of paper when trying the simplest folding pattern.
Things are starting to come together. Outside of the studio space I continue to work on the pieces that were in pre-production leading up to the residency. Leaving new work to be explored while in the Fresh Milk studio.
I’m here until mid April. If you’re on island stop by and say hi.
The idea came to me while lying awake in bed staring at the dusty ceiling fan. My ah ha moment birthed a typographical algorithm for each piece I was to create. I quickly found a need to measure every pen stroke as I got down to sketching the first draft.
I began with a base fish fold. Then took on the frog fold. I practiced. And practiced. First on 8.5″ x 8.5″ office paper and later graduated to 17″ x 17″ thicker student grade paper. The base fold patterns really intrigued me. The symmetry and the creased thick paper felt right. Thin origami specialty paper is normally used for the folds. But I wanted to go with thicker paper for a more strained pattern.
The first piece, Triple-A, consists of the letter “A” mirrored and repeated. The piece on the right reads, Piece Of Shit. The diptych refers to the triple-A rating Bear Stearns’ mortgage backed securities received from the rating agency, Moody’s. The firm referred to these as a Piece of Shit in internal emails.
The slightest lapse would wipe away 4+ hours of progress. This happened so many times. I’ve had a lot on my mind recently and this is part of the reason why I took on making origami patterns in the first place. It’s a cathartic process.
What I created this past week.5 is oddly in line with the targets that I brought to the residency already in production. In working out of Fresh Milk’s studios I am surrounded by an ocean of fractals. Repeating patterns are everywhere. It provides amazing inspiration for where this series is going. Maybe this is the common thread holding everything together.
The final week found me producing an origami piece while circling back to the work that was in pre-production before arriving at Fresh Milk. After returning to the previous work it became clear that there was a narrative running through the series. Convertibles Are Better Than Warrants had grown legs.
What I thought was to be the simplest of the three origami pieces turned out to be the most challenging. By Thursday I had spent an entire week on it. Moments after drawing the last line it was hanging on the wall next to the targets and other folded pieces. It reads: If They Can Fog A Mirror; Fund ‘Em. The Triptych is titled, If They Can Fog A Mirror Fund ‘Em A Piece of Shit.
Friday morning involved presenting to a group of curators and other creative industry folk from Brazil, Barbados, and the UK at Fresh Milk. A small group of contemporary Barbadian artists made up of Ewan Atkinson, Janelle Griffith, Shanika Grimes, Katherine Kennedy, Fresh Milk founder Annalee Davis and myself spoke for a few minutes about our creative process and current projects.
The following day I ran a portraiture workshop with the Graydon Sealy Secondary School’s photography club as part of my community outreach through Fresh Milk. Although I’ve been teaching photography to university students for the past few years, this was the first time running a workshop for kids; not early 20 somethings. They really got into the work of Vivian Maier and Cindy Sherman. But understandably they were most interested in taking photos than talking about them. I’ll make sure to share a few of their photos in a later post.
I stopped by Barbadian designer and good friend, Elena Branker’s studio yesterday to pick up the garment we collaborated on for the project. It’s a tan linnen vest featuring 20 pockets where Bear Stearns playing cards rest. I think of it as part magician/drug mule/suicide bomber vest.
Fresh Milk marks my third artist residency. Last summer I did a 2 week residency at Alice Yard in Port Of Spain, Trinidad and in February/March of 2011 I took part in a 3 week screen printing residency at the Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium. My residency experiences serve as reminders that I’m on the right track. Nothing makes me happier than creating new work in a supportive environment free of distraction.
Massive thanks to the Fresh Milk team for being amazing hosts. You have inspired me to one day create my own treehouse studio with an abundance of coffee and banana bread.