March 8, 2013 - Comments Off on Mark Evans : The Score
As creative minds, we are all in search of new ideas. But as time keeps moving and history becomes longer by the minute, it seems that everything has already been thought of and it’s becoming harder to be unique. So, there is one thing that can be relied upon if you want to be innovative: a new media. Whether that be digital, print or in this case, art. Mark Evans has done just that. He has perfected his intricate art by using leather as his canvas. And if that wasn’t badass enough, he uses knives to etch his pieces! We caught up with him stateside to find out more.
So whereabouts are you in the world right now?
I'm in a log cabin in the Redwood Forests of upstate California.
What are your plans whilst you're there?
I'm here to lock down my ideas for next series. I get so busy in the studio I need to unplug from the Matrix, switch off the phone, kill the email, and just sit here for a week with nothing but my sketchbooks and ideas for company. I need to clear the fog and get away from the noise to think… but I have to answer these questions first!
We’re looking forward to seeing it! Now, your work is very unique. What gave you the idea to start using leather as a canvas?
An accident. It was winter 2000, at the turn of the millennium and I was trying to clean a blood stain off a new leather jacket I had just been given that Christmas. That jacket was the spark that led to my first ever leather etching! By sheer accident, or God-given providence, I scratched through the blood into the surface of the jacket. That tiny etched patch of contrast in the leather suddenly flipped on the creative light-bulb. It was my own Archimedes "Eureka" moment, as if an explosion went off in my mind. I saw a world of possibilities. I locked myself away for the next few years and just focused on developing this new technique. I was living as part artist & part mad-scientist trying to perfect the process that I'd accidentally discovered.
Your technique using knives to scratch the leather looks painstakingly intricate. Did it take you many attempts to get to the level you're at now?
Thousands of attempts. My process has taken me over a decade to perfect. It takes an insane amount of patience and immense attention to detail, as I only remove less than a tenth of a millimetre of the leather surface. I have collected hundreds of different knives since I was a boy; blades, scalpels, pen-knives which I use to cut and slice through the layers of dark hide to remove just enough skin until I expose the varying tones of lighter tanned suede (or nap) beneath. It's chiaroscuro, the balance of light and dark. My work is micro-sculpture but on a large scale and each piece can take months to complete. It’s surgical precision, I have to take my time because if I ever make a single mistake and slice through the hide I have to go back and start again from the beginning. What's done cannot be undone, there's no 'Apple-Z' ! Any cut or slice could go wrong, and so every piece is made, quite literally on a knife edge.
Your work has some very strong themes throughout. Tell us a bit more about them and what they mean.
I like to create pieces about a collision of ideals. I like images that turn on a preconception, for example Furious Affection (2011) and A House Divided (2013) both show an aggressive symbol inverted or subverted to show something with a very different meaning. My work is the contrast of light & dark… darkness & light.
Does the leather canvas help to enhance that idea?
Yeah… as I cut through the skin and etch through the layers of darkness, I’m trying to reveal areas of light, of brightness. I’m taking something dead and gone, and hopefully trying to make something beautiful out of something that was very mundane. Something extra-ordinary out of something ordinary. Art should be something that confronts us, something that stops us and makes us think. That’s why I love working with leather, I’m trying to cut back through the layers of wax and polished surface to reveal what’s really going on beneath the veneer. I’m searching, aiming for something from below the surface. I guess I’m reaching for something magnificent. Something immortal. That’s the struggle.
I have read that you were born in Wales but your work features a lot of American symbolism. Why is this?
Yes, I grew up on a farm in the Welsh mountains, that's where my love of knives began. But my work is not about America. I only use the dollar in my art as it's the most iconic global symbol of finance. Even kids in villages in Africa know what a dollar looks like. It's a universal currency so it can become mythic in it's meaning.
Do you get met with any negativity around your use of leather?
Sometimes. I do get some complaints from the animal activists and PETA people, but what can I do? I’m not going to keep everyone happy. I have no current plans to start doing Quorn art! …Etched vegetables or tofu just don't have the same appeal.
What are your views concerning the ethical issues surrounding the use of leather?
There are no real ethical issues surrounding leather. It's not the same as fur, because cows are not slaughtered for their skin. They are killed for their meat. Leather is just a by-product, a waste product that is used for something beautiful.
From your videos you seem to wear lots of leather too! Is it a bit of an obsession of yours?And if so, what caused it?
Yeah, I love leather. Leather is a contradiction. It has both functional and aesthetic appeal. Leather is ancient, yet ultra cool. Leather has heritage, yet it is still rock n roll. Leather just gets better with age. Leather is masculine... from spartans and gladiators to wild west gunslingers. And leather is feminine and sensual. Authentic leather has it's own aroma that appeals to people...like good coffee, or grass-cuttings, the scent evokes something romantic. Leather was once a living, breathing creature. In a plastic, synthetic, digital world, leather is authentic. Maybe my hunter-gatherer roots somehow resonate with leather. Who knows… maybe an ancient echo from early ancestors? It’s knives & leather… I love how primal that is.
What keeps you inspired?
Taking risks. Doing what seems impossible.
If you could offer one piece of advice to a young artist starting out, what would it be?
Switch off your iphone, smash your Xbox, piss on your Playstation and get in the studio every day. Never give up. And have very thick skin - reject rejection.
If you got to start everything over again, would you still be an artist?
Either that or a knife fighter! Seriously… I love what I do… but I also love film. I'm an artist by day and writing / producing movies by night.
If you could only have one piece of art in your house, but you could choose anything in the world, what would it be?
Thanks so much Mark, it’s amazing to speak to someone so dedicated to his work! We wish you all the best with your films and your next series. You can see more of Mark’s work on his website.
Published by: admin in The Score