AM dropped by Mark Whalen’s studio recently to get a preview of his new work, which will be shown as a solo exhibition with Edwina Corlette Gallery at the Melbourne Art Fair  (August 1-5). If you can’t make it to the art fair, follow Mark Whalen (nowhaywhay) on Instagram for a play by play of the event.

Looking into Mark Whalen’s psychedelic gridded realities is like a mythic journey into hyperspace.  He redefines the atmospheric picture plane, using pure geometric forms and grids to create imaginary landscapes.  Perfect shapes carve out space in constructed environments, his precise line work creating crisp repetitions of receding space.  More art object than mere painting, his is the sort of work that really must be seen in person.  His hand-painted works on paper are mounted to wood and then covered in resin.  The thick layer of varnish refracts light as it bounces off the surface of his images, dramatically pushing back his gridded spaces, and creating an exaggerated sense of depth and distance between his backgrounds and foregrounded characters, an effect that is difficult to capture in a photograph.

These abstract environments create the platform for his studies of the human condition.  Influenced by his time spent in a Japanese jail cell (for graffiti of course), Mark Whalen paints stark, sterile environments where everything is stripped down to its visual essentials. Grids, geometric patterns and shapes help to create spatial relations while remaining archetypal and unspecific, creating an open-ended narrative, leaving room for viewer interpretation. Allegorical in nature, his pieces are based on stories and scenarios rather than sketches. Adding to the scenes as he goes along, he leaves room for humor and spontaneity in his process.

Influenced by geometry, astrology, human psychology and archetypal roles, his work can be read as psychological character studies of the human narrative- a broad range of experience illustrated through masked figures, androgynous and anonymous, engaged in acts of sex, war, ritual, work, play, competition, and servitude.   Dualities are present throughout his work: black and white, pink and blue, male and female, positive and negative, creative and destructive.  Reflective of our time and strangely prophetic, it is like a glimpse into a utilitarian future where nature is obsolete and humanity is reduced to its bare bones – the abstraction of human consciousness.  Perhaps in our current digital age, Mark Whalen is creating a constructed reality that is easier to relate to than our own.

JULY 31 – AUGUST 5, 2012

Some photos by Andrew Parker.  All others courtesy of the artist.