On view in the Kathy Chan Gallery September 8 – December 29
For Mark Sharp, abstraction involves a constantly shifting set of variables that have become over time a rich visual world of form and feeling. The paintings are inspired by real landscape elements, but sky and land are transformed into purely pictorial experiences of space and form. Rather than transcriptions, these paintings invite the viewer into compelling encounters with bold shapes and vigorous gestures.
Sharp’s paintings are a complex of overlapping forms that morph and marry, jostle and dissolve. At times, the irregular arcs and rounded rectangles contend for autonomy or dominance. But no shape is separate; all are intimately related in a dynamic matrix. Forms develop intuitively, with blocky ovoids slowly growing, becoming hidden, and then emerging. The viewer visually travels through the painting, discovering a composition that is essentially organic in nature.
Exhibition organized through Katharine T. Carter and Associates.
Mark Sharp has enjoyed success as a full-time professional artist since the late 1990s and has recently
navigated through a sharp shift of direction in his professional practice that has resulted in an artistic
A native of Holland, Michigan, Sharp’s artistic sensibilities were encouraged from the outset. He took
private drawing lessons as a child, and then during his high school years he attended art classes at the
local Hope College. He went on to attend Hope College full time before embarking on the BFA program
in the School of Art at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, graduating in 1990.
During his time in Ann Arbor, Sharp’s enthusiasms progressed from a preference for representational
work, specifically painting and drawing the life model, to a fascination with abstraction. Strongly influenced
by Marsden Hartley, Hans Hoffman and Willem de Kooning, this approach was out of keeping
with the aesthetics of the School of Art at that time. As a consequence Sharp began to devote his artistic
energy to ceramics, an activity that he still practices. Perhaps equally important was his simultaneous
study of piano. Sharp has been a lifelong music enthusiast, and parallels have often been suggested
between musical composition and the balance of structure and the improvisational qualities that Sharp
brings to his painting process.
Mark Sharp has been exhibited widely in over twenty one and two-person exhibitions nationwide, including
those at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY; Three Sixty Three Gallery, Memphis; Black
Rock Center for the Arts, Maryland; Barrett Fine Art Gallery, Utica College, NY; Ezair Gallery, New
York City; 4 Star Gallery, Indianapolis; and the University of Illinois, Chicago. He has become a stalwart
of New York’s Walter Wickiser Gallery; Wickiser has exhibited his work in more than two dozen exhibitions
(group and two-person) and art fairs. His work is included in the public collections of DePaul
University, Concordia University, and Hope College, and in numerous corporate collections. His work
has been featured in d’Art International, and he has received coverage in NY Arts Magazine, CULTURE
VULTURE, and the Indianapolis Star.
Over the course of his career Mark Sharp has had homes in and around Chicago and Washington, DC.
He has recently returned to Holland, Michigan where he resides with his family.
During the first months of 2016 new pictorial possibilities began to open up in a body of work in which
collage assumed a central role. Though this was entirely new terrain the investigation has benefited
enormously from novel techniques that were quickly absorbed into this practice.
In addition to the more traditional paint and canvas, materials for these new pictures are discovered
on regular forays to second hand stores. These include bed sheets, towels, and a whole range of articles
of clothing, and they are carefully selected to provide a broad range of options for color and texture.
A first preliminary layer of the finished painting is made by applying paint to bed sheets. This involves
a whole gamut of techniques from traditional brushing to daubing, pouring, dripping, bleeding,
spattering, and spraying. Once dry, the sheets are cut into sections and the most compelling pieces are
glued to stretched canvas. This provides the basis for further aesthetic exploration through the addition
and arrangement of more painted sections and those cut or torn from pieces of clothing.
Several pictures can be underway at any one time, and each goes through alternate periods of detailed
consideration and more extemporaneous action. This results in the discoveries and surprises that lie at
the heart of this work.
The range of surface incident has snowballed, and so has the scope of painting techniques employed.
Each piece of salvaged fabric brings with it color, pattern, texture, weight, and unique characteristics
like folds, seams, tears, and puckers. Layering and knotting these pieces thrusts the work into multiple
While observation of the natural world is far less important to the current work, relationships
between individual paintings can be far more literal, because identical painted or patterned material
can show up in a number of works simultaneously. Thus ideas explored in one picture can stimulate
the development of others, and familial connections between pictures evolve, particularly in the
exploration of vibrant color and vigorous draftsmanship. This newest body of work is replete with
potential and possibilities, and all at once an exciting new artistic landscape presents itself.