Surridge of expectancy for Mark's fourth solo exhibition

PUBLISHED: 15:03 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:25 07 September 2010

Mark Surridge is a thoughtful artist who is refreshingly open about the art, experiences and feelings affecting his work. Enfolding, his fourth solo exhibition at the Beardsmore Gallery in Kentish Town, is the exhilarating outcome of a brave change of di

Mark Surridge is a thoughtful artist who is refreshingly open about the art, experiences and feelings affecting his work.

Enfolding, his fourth solo exhibition at the Beardsmore Gallery in Kentish Town, is the exhilarating outcome of a brave change of direction.

Born in Walthamstow in 1963, Surridge studied at Maidstone College of Art and moved from London to Cornwall in 1997.

This meant exposure to phenomena which can be a blessing and a burden for artists - the unspoilt dramatic landscape of the far west and the legacy of the post-war St Ives painters.

For the last 10 years, he has made abstract paintings with references to landscape and the elements.

But Surridge felt he had exhausted his investigation of the subject. "I wanted to find my voice rather than the voice of the landscape."

So he moved into the (for him) less well charted inner terrain of art which, as he puts it, "excavates states of feeling".

A visual vocabulary for the paintings, prints and mixed media works in Enfolding evolved from disparate activities.

Initially he used life drawing to focus on being "in the now" and to open up new methods of mark-making.

Experiments with psychic automatism unleashed a series of signs - in one significant session he made 42 drawings in 25 minutes. In another, he recorded a commentary as he drew, playing it back for key words. Some found their way into titles of a five-part series which includes the title work.

A drawing project with medical students at Treliske hospital in Truro gave him access to human and anatomical models.

As far as it's possible to be so literal with abstract art, two defined forms that are pervasive in recent work emerged from this project - one elongated and articulated that he associates with limbs and the other a kidney shape evoking an embryo or seed.

Coincidentally - or perhaps not - they resemble shapes which recur in the earlier automatic drawings.

Collage is a thread running through his landscape paintings and the psychological works - although the latter reveal the process more. This is especially true of the earliest transitional works such as Delicate Openings, with its cut-outs of rough fabric.

Gestural mark-making - brushstrokes or drawn lines - also remains in many of the newer works, but as an element combined with solid and patterned forms often in tension, as in Outfold.

In Mind Crossing (pictured), charcoal, ink and graphite drawings are "frozen in", as he puts it, by encapsulating them with overprinting from a plate inked up with vivid red.

In the elegantly spare monoprint Seed To Midpoint, he uses blind embossing to enclose, with delicately shadowed limb-like forms, an intensely black embryo-like shape surrounded by a haze of dots.

This is juxtaposed with a circular form of wavering pencil lines evoking tree rings - 44 to correspond to the artist's years.

The emotional potency of this subtly melancholy work perhaps stems from its relation to his reflections on mortality, as his father died at this young age.

The organic shapes of three large canvases - Germination, Finding Places and Delicate Heart - stem from a recent opportunity to create a garden.

This led to a fascination with leaf and plant forms in close-up, "macro-nature rather than immersion in a panoramic landscape".

Where before he was trying to flatten visual space, he now looks at it in a sculptural way.

The later Aperture is a precise construction whose central void formed by overlapping box trays ambiguously suggests love or lack of it in human partnerships. These are intriguing works that repay close contemplation.

Until October 11 at 22-24 Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, Saturday, noon to 5pm. Tel: 020-7485 0923.

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