This past Saturday in Los Angeles, Australian artist Mark Whalen unveiled a new exhibition at MK Gallery. The exhibition, titled Trapezoid, features the artist’s uncanny characters, which engage in strange activities amid squares, triangles and, of course, trapezoids. “I think that patterns and shapes, geometry, are visually grounding,” Mark explains, “it’s a whole other language. Patterns and lines give structure to the sometimes chaotic and free-flowing narratives in my work, and there’s a meditative quality and balance that is created by having both.” The exhibition features 10 new paintings, as well as eight hand-painted ceramic sculptures and two plaster sculptures. “I’ve tried to take things to a new level with this show, and am always excited about the paintings, but the crumpled paper ceramic pieces and plaster sculptures definitely add a new dimension to the conversation in this show,” says Mark, who also discusses Claus Oldenburg and the creative process, in the following interview with The Hundreds.
ZIO: Can you tell us a little bit about your new exhibition?
MARK WHALEN: There [are] 10 paintings, eight hand-painted ceramic sculptures, and two hand-painted plaster sculptures. Everything is integrated into the space with hand painted walls.
What inspired the works in this show? How was Claus Oldenburg’s The Store an influence?
Oldenburg’s Store parallels a lot of ideas that interest me—individualizing and creating unique sculpted objects of the seemingly unexceptional. Oldenburg reinterpreted the function and value of everyday objects, and I think this applies to my personal process of creating art as well—what is considered of value and what is not, changing its form and interpretation. Books and crumpled pieces of paper parallel the drafting process when you’re in the midst of creating work for an exhibition—sketching, crumpling things up, tossing them out and then picking them up again and reinvigorating them. I like the idea of making metaphorically discarded things from the creative process into polished, contemplative ceramic sculptures.
What do you find intriguing about geometry, shapes, and patterns?
I think that patterns and shapes, geometry, are visually grounding; it’s a whole other language. Patterns and lines give structure to the sometimes chaotic and free flowing narratives in my work, and there’s a meditative quality and balance that is created by having both.
Why did you title this exhibition Trapezoid?
A trapezoid is a really interesting shape that has so many angles and variations—it’s a kind of shape shifter. Plus, it’s a fun play on words for the circumstances some of my characters find themselves in over the course of their escapades.
How is this show different from previous shows? How have you evolved as an artist since previous shows?
I feel that every show is an evolution; it happens in degrees. I’ve tried to take things to a new level with this show, and am always excited about the paintings, but the crumpled paper ceramic pieces and plaster sculpture definitely add a new dimension to the conversation in this show.
What do you want people to think or understand when looking at your works?
That although there is some sociopolitical commentary and observations about human nature, there is also a lot of humor, satire and punnery.
Portrait of Mark by Luke Shirlaw.