Shape Shifting with Mark Posey

Mark Posey is a contemporary still life painter living and working in Los Angeles. He paints objects that have seemingly human qualities, often incorporating the imperfections that help shape personality. Mark received his BA from UC Berkeley and my MFA from Academy of Art University San Francisco in 2012.

By shifting between sculpture and painting, Mark Posey gains a holistic appreciation of the objects around him. This negotiation between the real and the hypothetical becomes blurred in his practice. Reality is shifted when his fundamental sculptures, that mirror the everyday, suddenly become unstable and new. He makes tables and chairs that are wildly unbalanced and then paints on these surfaces simple everyday objects that are curiously reminiscent of a flattened still life – or an unflattering still life of beer and cigarettes. These combinations of painting upon sculpture have an accessible and playful quality that draws you in to the potential of such an unsteady reality.

Along with the painted objects on the sculptured table from his recent body of work, there are individual and intimate portraits on objects alongside the sculptures. The relationship of objects on the floor displayed with paintings of the same objects creates a mirroring of an obsession with the ordinary. This fascination with the ordinary object, and depicting it through painting and sculpture, is a beautiful attempt to learn about ourselves from our surroundings. Posey is exploring the poetry of the everyday object and its meaning in our lives, and how these gestures modified again and again have the potential to build meaning within our identity.

AMM: Can you tell us about how you became interested in fine arts?

MP: I became interested in art when I was about 12 years old. My mom signed my brother and I up for some painting classes. My brother was a lot better than I was, but I was fascinated with what paint was capable of and decided to continue painting. I got serious about painting in my senior year of college when I was studying English at UC Berkeley. I would stay in most nights and spend a majority of my time painting.  I realized that art wasn’t just a hobby for me and I wanted to get serious about it. Once I graduated I decided to make the move across the bridge and get my MFA at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

AMM: Did you start working with objects or painting objects?

MP: I studied traditional painting while at the Academy of Art. We focused on portraits and still lifes for a majority of the program. When I graduated I carried my affinity for these subjects into my new work and began painting objects that I had more of a personal connection with. Many of the objects in my paintings are things that are present in my daily life, and painting them is a comfortable way for me to express who I am and how I live.

AMM: Do you feel that working in two and three dimensions expands your creative process?

MP: I mainly work in two dimensions. I’ve made a couple of sculptures over the years, and it’s always exciting to see my work come off the wall and inhabit more of a physical space. Seeing a three dimensional version of an object I normally paint forces me to change how I think about it in the future.

AMM: How do the two processes of painting and sculpture inform each other in your practice?

MP: Sculpting is a great way to re-familiarize myself with objects that I already know very well. Each one of my sculptures has been a three dimensional version of something that has already been in a painting of mine. As far as painting the sculptures go, the process is very similar and I use pretty much all of the same techniques regardless of what I’m painting.

AMM: Can you talk about your relationship to balance and stability—since many of the traditional objects you construct like tables and chairs are made intentionally so precariously; and how beauty and non-traditional subject matter make their way into your “still life” works?

MP: Many of the objects I paint have humanizing elements to them. I don’t want to paint them perfectly because I think imperfections say a lot about who we are, and can even be endearing at times. So a lot of the objects I paint have lines that are not entirely straight and angles that don’t quite add up. Including some flaws makes the objects more relatable and gives each one its own unique character.

AMM: Do you intentionally think about humor when you are arranging your compositions?

MP: I don’t intentionally make paintings that are humorous, but I do think of them as being playful. The bright colors and bold shapes almost take on the same quality as a cartoon. They portray a hyper-saturated world that is too vibrant to be real and would probably be pretty fun to live in.

AMM: How do you relate to the relationship between humor and subtle beauty in your smaller meditative paintings? Can you talk about the relationship between the balancing rock paintings you create and the re-organizing of balance with the sculptures you make?

MP: It’s exciting and unusual to see objects defy their natural properties. Painting a chair that should not be standing or rocks that are seemingly weightless is a way to distort reality. I don’t make paintings to confirm what people know as common or comfortable, that’s not my role as an artist. If possible, I want to change the relationship people have with the objects they are already familiar with.

AMM: Do you feel that your work has changed after living in Los Angeles?

MP: My surroundings have really influenced my work over the years. When I moved to LA my paintings definitely became brighter and more lively. Not to mention in LA I have a lot more artist friends who are continually giving me feedback on my work. LA really has a great art scene and I’m really fortunate to be working here.

AMM: Where do you see your work heading next?

MP: I’ve been focusing on experimenting with new materials and different ways to approach making paintings. It’s been exciting because I’m not entirely sure what I’ll learn or what’s on the horizon for my work.

Find out more about the artist: www.markposeyart.com

Interview by Megan St.Clair for ArtMaze Mag.