Emily Goldsmith: When we spoke last month, you had completed a few new works for your upcoming exhibition that marked quite a significant development in the evolution of your process. How has it been in the studio since then? You seem to have been doing a lot of work.
Marc Blake: Yes it’s been a very productive couple of months. I’ve got another month to finish things off and so far it’s all looking in good shape. Once the first few works happened it kind of opened the floodgates in a way, the ideas have been coming through quickly and most importantly it’s been the most fun I’ve had painting in quite a while. There’s a real flow happening from one to the next.
E.G: You said before that you think this body of work is perhaps the biggest jump since 2008.
M.B: I still think it is. Of course a lot has happened in those years and it’s all shaped where I am today, but there is a whole new freedom opened up with these new works that I haven’t felt for ages. Some periods of working have a more defined characteristic about them, as if the work is really just for one specific show or avenue of experimentation, but recently I can feel the whole thing opening up a lot, suggesting there is a lot more to investigate.
E.G: Even with the past couple of works, it seems clear you are still opening up and letting things happen. The first works I saw early last month were very free and seemingly spontaneous, but now it seems to be even more so. Particularly with this latest one titled, “The Magnificence”.
M.B: I’m still experimenting with different ways of treating the board and the paint. New uses of mediums and preparation affect the way in which the very thin liquid pigment flows and dries across the board. I am dabbing at the wet paint and interacting with it a bit while its wet, but I don’t want to try and control everything. The wider “landscape” usually starts to appear very quickly in the process, but it doesn’t have to be logical or realistic in any way. It doesn’t have to always make sense or be polished or perfect.
E.G: The paintings all have a sense of cohesion and obviously work together very well as a group, yet there is still something unique that differentiates all of them.
M.B: Well there is two kinds of disciplines going on in these works I think. The first being the unpredictable application of very thin colour and the second being what figures or objects to place within the landscape and how to render them. With the first layers, I am outside with the painting lying on the grass. I’m using very fluid paint and literally a garden hose to soak everything. Add to that the effects of the wind and sun, even snow and rain and the angle or slope of the ground and you realise there’s a whole lot of factors at play. I could attempt to try and paint two works the same but it would never happen, it’s impossible to ever completely duplicate.
E.G: And then as you mentioned, the figures and animals and trees start to populate these landscapes, yet even between how they are painted there is a big variation of how you handle the paint. How solid or detailed the figures are, or how much they advance or recede from the background.
M.B: Again it just comes down to the intuition of working. I don’t know how the figures, or trees, or whatever is going to be painted until I’m actually painting them. Even then sometimes it changes midway through, or maybe again further down the line when something else is added. But then this is how I’ve really always worked anyway, each step influences the next.
E.G: You always have quite a lot of variation with how the paint is applied in a single work. Like there are a number of different techniques happening at once. This isn’t something you often seen in painting, but for you this kind of thick and thin, soft and hard contrast seems to be important.
M.B: Again this has only happened over years of working. It’s an intuitive thing I do and I just have to trust it. I think a lot of it comes down to a kind of focus in the work, like a camera focus. Having soft areas and crisp areas, thin areas and thicker more textural areas is more interesting to me. It makes the eye wander around the work more I think and switch between focusing on one spot and then another and then also taking the whole wide scene in. I also want certain things to advance and recede like we’ve mentioned. My works are all very, very flat landscapes and this comes from the strong Asian influence. They are literally almost the thinnest application of paint I can use and particularly with these recent works, it’s mainly just one single colour being applied, so in that sense it’s like ink. All of these things combined means an illusion of focus and depth and different planes can appear, all within a super flat work.