This month’s featured artist is surrealist painter Mark Sheeky, whose dream-like imagery explores the power of the subconscious mind through jarring vistas and re-imagined portraits.
We spoke to Mark about his inspiration as an artist and how he found a love for surrealism.
What medium(s) do you work with?
I’m truly multi-media; art is my vocation and obsessive calling, I paint in oils and watercolour, and draw in ink, but also compose and record music, perform piano, write and publish poetry, fiction, create bonkers videos! I basically engage in everything creative, but for painting I love oil paints. The power and beauty of the medium is unsurpassed, and I have a fondness for classical art.
Describe your style of art
My work is often called surrealistic, and I do include dream imagery (even in my music and writing!), but I try be imaginative in all of my work and express a full gamut of ideas and feelings, of course the heart of art is emotion. I find paintings of “normal things” boring, and nowadays more pointless than ever! These days, expression and imagination are vital in art.
When did you begin your career in art?
My first love was computer programming, and from a child of 9 loved to program games. Years later, after doing this on my own obsessively until I was 34, and never having any success with it, I discovered painting after joining an Internet group of artists.
I discovered that I programmed like an artist; for the challenge, the love, to push myself and to create, so in a way I thought that I was always an artist; but I didn’t paint until my mid-30s, in 2004. I joined an art group a few years later and that ended my isolation. I barely spoke or left the house until that time and had no social contact. Perhaps that’s where my surrealistic imagination comes from. Things are different now, but I’m still very much an outsider as an artist.
Who or what inspires your art?
I never need inspiration as such, I’ve worked full time as an artist for many years and have infinite discipline so can create and work to order very quickly. In terms of subject I’ve moved through several phases, from at first just my feelings and personal experiences, to more universal emotions using Romantic-era music as inspiration. My recent creative focus is on the interface between humans and technology. This will change the world hugely and the art of the present must reflect this transformation.
What is one of your favourite paintings that you have done and why?
Let’s pick a recent one. The Resurrection Sonata is a series of three small paintings that starts with a toad on a brown background, then ends with a blue lady made of sky with red “hair”. This was an exploration of forms; ordering visual works to evoke emotions like classical music does with its movements. You can’t really say what it’s “about”, you just feel it and like music, you experience each one in turn.
This piece stars dark and mysterious, sad because there is a grieving woman there. Then it moves to a face with closed eyes, but the blue lady at the end is a joyous explosion and all three works are unified, yet different too. For me, this is something new in visual art, and something that it needs; all creative forms, poetry, music, drama have structures yet these are rare or missing in visual art, so this was an experiment. It’s new, so will take a while to gain traction, but I’m pleased with how it has worked out.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment, two music albums: one of pop songs called The Modern Game about the impact of technology and social media, and an album of piano and poetry about social attitudes to mental health called Testing The Delicates, and a book about art and surrealist theory called 21st Century Surrealism, which will be published this year. But – I must paint too! I’m full of ideas for new things this year, including a unique series of portraits that will be in a new direction, but again, exploring technology. I can’t be sure until I get the non-painting work out of the way. I tend to paint in summer and make music and books in winter.
What’s your most unusual creative habit/strangest technique which you have learned?
I use amber in my oil media, which is unusual but so pleasurable. I also paint from models and so make everything in clay first, photograph them, then paint from that. It takes ages, but it’s worth doing.
You can shop Mark Sheeky’s full portfolio of work here!