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In Conversation with Mark Powell
Editorial / Artists

In Conversation with Mark Powell

13 Oct 2021

"You don't need an easel and oil paints to be an artist."

Words of wisdom from Mark Powell in an interview to mark our release of incredible, new original drawings by the artist.

Working with Biro, Mark Powell produces intricate portraits on found documents such as letters and maps. Ahead of releasing new work exclusively with Hang-Up, we caught up with the artist to find out more about his methods.

Hang-Up: Why do you work in Biro?

Mark Powell: I use a biro because it's the most simple and readily available tool to hand. I hope that means that it might encourage others to get creative if they normally wouldn't – you don't need an easel and oil paints to be an artist after all.

HU: How do you choose your subjects?

MP: Aesthetic value is all I need for the subject to work for me. Then I just have to pair it to the correct 'canvas' which can be tricky – the decision of what to keep and what to take from the map or postcard I choose is a delicate one. They have to work together like in a dance, with the ink as the music.

... in progress in Mark Powell's Brighton studio.

... in progress in Mark Powell's Brighton studio.

HU: How long do your subjects sit for you, or do you work from photos?

MP: I have to work from photos, because the sitter wouldn't want to remain still for the amount of time it takes me to scribble things.

HU: When did you first decide to use antique/found objects as canvases?

MP: The idea to use them first came to me when I found an envelope which was sent from the front line in World War One: Just before [the soldier] went over the top, he sent a letter home. Assuming he’d never made it back spurred me to draw what I thought he would look like as an old man. Since then, it has snowballed. Maps and postcards are easy to find, but you have to know where to look.

HU: On your website, you talk about almost overnight success after being featured on the website Colossal. Did you think you would become a full-time artist before that point?

MP: Waking up one morning and doing a job I had an intense dislike for and then going to bed that same day knowing I was a full time artist wasn't too bad at all. I allowed myself to smile a little at a bus stop in Ilford knowing I wouldn't be doing the journey again, and I'll be forever thankful to This is Colossal for that. I never really thought about becoming an artist full time: where I grew up (and especially in the "home" environment that I had to exist in as a child), the only thought was to escape by any means. Art seemed a luxury, one that would give the legs the speed they would need. But after accidentally going to university, I decided that's what I would be and it has given me wings instead.

HU: Do you like working in London? And, if so, why?

MP: I do like working in London, it certainly has the big city feel and the history seeps from the streets which helps me connect to my work too. Recently, I’ve been in Brighton too. I always need to be by the sea as it is very calming. The two places have a very nice juxtaposition for me.

HU: If you could have one piece by another artist on your wall, what would it be and why?

MP: Anything by Basquiat. Because he's the best.

HU: Did lockdown affect your practice or outlook?

MP: Lockdown hasn't affected me or my practice, I always find myself in a trance of working that makes time disappear.

Anthropology by Mark Powell at Hang-Up Gallery, 2016.

Anthropology by Mark Powell at Hang-Up Gallery, 2016.

HU: What's your favourite show of all the ones you've done, and why?

MP: Anthropology with you guys would be my pick at the minute. Though, looking back, I realise how much progress I’ve made since then.

HU: What's next for Mark Powell?

MP: Next up are a few things in Paris, a couple of places next to Louvre and Notre Dame, followed by showing some works at The Museum of Montmartre. And I want to get a series of the larger works done and put them up on a wall somewhere!

To see Powell's work, click here. To find out more about the artist, call us to chat: our contact details are here.

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