Various pieces by Mark Whalen (Kill Pixie)
In recent years, Mark Whalen has used an axonometric grid as a foundation on which to engineer paintings that are, at once, psychedelic visions of our past lives and a revelatory demonstration of what is yet to come.
This grid is central to his practice as it removes any familiar context from which we find our bearings. His works often appear bigger than us in spirit, yet through their diminutive scale and fine detail, we peer into them as miniature dioramas.
Whalen’s characters are confined within micro worlds laden with sex, religion, race, and violence. They play out scenes that titillate and torture with reckless abandon. At times there is no distinction between floor, ceiling and wall – each being congruent with activity and without gravitational pull. These worlds are, quite literally, on the brink of being turned upside down.
That is not to say Whalen doesn’t impart his distinctive humour throughout his artworks. It is not all doom and gloom, fantasy and fanfare. Whalen revels in the absurd and his paintings and sculptures are as much whimsical as they are worldly, and often tongue in cheek. His palette alone delivers a wry comment on the very nature of society’s willingness to categorise each other; the great divide of girl and boy, pink and blue.
Now living and working in Los Angeles, Whalen’s practice is a far cry from his early years in Sydney where he was recognised for his large-scale graffiti works. Yet his indomitable spirit of creativity and resistance fractures and realigns old divides between street and gallery, and reinterprets the universal human struggle for freedom and control in a world that he sees as being bent on self-destruction.
I’m influenced by a lot of different things that eventually seep into my work. Architecture and geometrical patterning being the main structural platform.
Early on, I was inspired by Indigenous Folk Art, and the way they used narratives to describe their culture and era, but I eventually felt the need to modernize to reflect my own place and time. And perhaps an alternate ‘futuristic’ reality. I guess you could say my work is a narrative forecast of the current social climate, albeit a satirical one. I find the times we’re living in completely absurd, but not void of humor, or humanity, as hard as it might be to find sometimes.
I’m a huge fan of M.C Escher — the way he studied Mathematics, symmetry, and Science and how he applied it in his work is completely amazing. Another inspirational painter for me is Bosch, his dark narrative and other unconventional worldly renderings for the time are unbelievable. More current painters are Barry McGee and Os Gemeos. How they made the transition from their street work into making more contained drawings, paintings and installations is really significant.