I first stumbled upon the paintings of Mark Warren Jacques at Cinders Gallery in Brooklyn. His small, radiant paintings hit me in the face. Mark’s paintings are characteristic of his personality: heady and amorous, and tempered with a languid playfulness. His brightly hued canvases combine a humble, DIY sensibility with otherworldly yearnings and an almost sublime aesthetic. His newest exhibit, I’m Here Now at Gallery Hijinks in San Francisco is open until November 15th. Last week I had the opportunity to talk to the artist about the show, his art, and future plans.
You were staying in SF for several months preceding the show. How has this experience impacted you and your work? Would you go back?
I moved out of my house in Portland in the spring to travel for exhibitions and with the Free Life Center art tour which ended in September in San Fran. I was actually planning to live in S.F. for a while up to and after the show, maybe even move there more permanently. I’ve sort of been living between S.F. and Portland for a while. When I had decided that the show would be titled I’m Here Now I also made a conscious decision to really let myself open up to be inspired by being there, in that place, at that time. Letting this new “home” dictate how to feel and in turn what type of work to make. This I came to find out was a dangerous decision, almost the opposite of what people do in large cities typically. You’re supposed to harden and look away from all the grime, the people in despair on the streets, the trash, the drugs, all the downers, you know. But I put myself in this mindset to be fully influenced by it, to let it come into me and it’s not that there isn’t beauty in S.F. too, but the downers were what i was seeing, and i think by opening up like that I ultimately had to embrace these things, and to turn them around in my mind and in my visual language. It was really difficult for me to be inspired by that. It was hard to be happy, but it was good, I learned, I forced it, I hated it and I loved it. I think quite a few of the pieces are leaps forward for me, leaps that would not have come in my little rainy Portland bubble.
How does your relationship with other mediums, film, music, skateboarding impact your artistic process? Do you view your painting outside of these activities?
In some ways I take myself a little more seriously with the painting, or visual art stuff because now there is an audience and I feel a real honor and sense of responsibility that comes with that. I see how lucky I am to be a full time artist and I think I have a voice that I want to be heard clearly when it comes to the painting, but I really believe that for me to be happy I have to believe that no matter what I’m up to, whether it’s painting, or skateboarding, or music, or drinking beer with friends, I gotta be myself, you know, stay true to how I feel and how I see, to not let anything hinder me from staying connected to myself.
You just got done touring all Summer with your project Free Life Center. Would you mind describing the project for our readers? What was the impetus?
For the Free Life Center project I collaborated with a long time artist friend Seth Neefus to create this transient installation. It seems easiest to describe the project as a movable “gallery” space / shack, built in a modular fashion of salvaged and reclaimed materials. At its full size the structure is a pretty large free standing building (10 ft wide x 16 ft long x 10ft tall), complete with lighting, a tin roof and a wood floor. Seth and I actually lived in the space a few times throughout the tour, indoors and out. Since we designed the building to come apart in sections, we had the option to vary the size of the installation to fit the environment it was housed within. We also built the structure in manageable pieces to allow us to travel, which is exactly what we’ve been doing this summer, an art tour. At each location along the journey we’ve been setting up the structure and filling it with our artworks, video works, process documentation, interactive installation elements, good vibes, and our music that we would perform live. Along with our own artworks we asked members of each local community to join in. We’ve had a ton of friends play music, dance, draw, jam, sleep, eat, and hang with us in and around the installation. So yeah, installation, art, video, music, art tour, curating guest performance, performing, documentation, its all a part of the project, and in a lot of it was a lifestyle we are in pursuit of. Everything was free, all were welcome, and given the impermanence of the installation in each place, I think the audience was really open to experience the whole thing as an idea. Sort of a once in a lifetime thing, which is exactly how the tour felt for me too. It was really fun, and inspiring.
To paint is to draw influence from life, aside from direct experience, what inspires you to paint?
I’m sure there are other things that I’m not aware of, but I would say direct experience is the only real inspiration. Wow when I think like that, I think how I’m feeling more and more convinced that I’m living in a real world, or a real reality, and that I need to make things that prove it. Maybe I make things to prove to myself that I’m alive, that any of this is real.
What’s next? Big plans for the next year?
Next is a solo show in Portland at Together Gallery opening December 4. A group show in Barcelona at Art & Design Barcelona in late December. Then I’m going back to my hometown in Ohio to be with my sister while she has her first child. Through the winter I’m gonna try to write a feature film, and then make it in the spring. That sounds ambitious huh. Then back to painting for shows in S.F., Seattle, and Baltimore next Summer. I want to manifest a show in New York sometime next year. Where should I do a show at in New York?
Favorite skate spot?
Adam, David, and I have been skating every nice day since I’ve been back in Portland, anywhere with them is a favorite. Specifically though I really like the skatepark at Hood River in Oregon. The whole park is built into the woods, with creeks running through it and transitions up trees, it’s amazing.
(All images courtesy of Gallery Hijinks and the artist)