Marc Standing is a Zimbabwean-born artist known for his surrealist abstract works. His piece, Odyssey, was shortlisted for the Jackson’s Open Painting Prize 2019 and is characteristic of his work; it challenges the viewer and invites them to decipher the layers of texture and meaning. Marc’s work explores the search for identity and evokes the tensions involved – between light and dark, comfort and discomfort, the sense of belonging and the sense of a void. His paintings are eerie and disquieting, while the muted colour palette provides a conflicting sense of calm. We spoke with Marc to find out more about his process, the materials he uses, and how he develops his work.
Dan: Hi Marc, please tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education.
Marc: I was born in Zimbabwe, and since I can remember have always drawn and painted. I graduated with a painting degree from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. At art school I was also very much into printmaking, which has made a strong resurgence in my practice. Art Labor in Shanghai and Afikaris in Paris currently represent me. In London I have been working with Skal, directed by the talented Lee Cavaliere.
Dan: How would you describe your practice?
Marc: As my work has evolved it has become trickier to describe. Perhaps it is more in line with abstract surrealism, if one can coin that term. I use to be quite a figurative painter, however, over time the work has become more about evoking an emotive dialogue with mark-making and colour.
My work is more a stream of consciousness where I work on about 6 to 7 pieces at the same time. It is an organic and meditative process, and the outcome is a state of mind of a time and place.
Dan: Could you tell us more about your process when making your works, particularly Odyssey?
Marc: I usually begin with the canvas flat down, on which I create very random washes and textures. These are always the starting points of the work, which inform a painting’s direction. Slowly I begin building up surfaces. The works become a painting, within a painting, within a painting. Every mark that goes down does inform the outcome, regardless of whether this is seen in the final piece or not.
I am also very much a colourist and am very particular about the colour I use. Often I see my works as puzzles, both in the production of making them and in the final outcome of how the viewer gets to interpret them.
Dan: A feature of your work is the tension created by the rich and complex layers. How important is layering in your practice?
Marc: Layering is very important in my practice and this is where my interest in printmaking has really come into play. I have always loved textures and collage work. My paintings are all done with paint and I use very rudimentary mono-printing techniques as well as many different tools to create textures.
Dan: What informs the decision to use acrylic paint, oils, or mixed media, and how do they aid your practice?
Marc: I used to only use oil paint until I began three-month residencies as an artist in residence in the Maldives. As I had to take my own materials over there oil paint was too complicated to transport. It was four years ago I began using acrylic paint and realized it was the best medium to use for the direction of where the work was evolving.
Dan: You were born in Zimbabwe, studied in South Africa, worked in Australia and Hong Kong, and are now working in London. How have these places informed your work, if at all, and do you intend to keep travelling and painting?
Marc: Yes, I was born and raised in Zimbabwe, which I have always considered home. In my early 20s my family immigrated to Australia. I was there for 5 years before I got the opportunity to live in Hong Kong.
Over the years I have done residencies in the Philippines, Mexico, the Maldives and Shanghai. Every place I have visited has always informed my practice to some degree. I do love travelling, seeing and exploring new cultures and meeting new people. Every place I go to has an impact on me as an artist. In India, I worked with a miniature painter, in Mexico, a paper mache artist. I find traditional cultural practices very inspiring.
Dan: What are your most important artist’s tools? Do you have any favourites?
Marc: Paint, as I’m an avid colourist! I do use many different tools though, chopsticks, brushes, plastics, rice, masking tape, as well as, making my own stamps by embossing different textures.
Dan: What is a good day in the studio for you?
Marc: When I can get a good solid 7-8 hours in the studio and I’m in the zone and things are flowing. Painting is very meditative for me and it can first take a little time to get into the right headspace. Once you get there though it is magic.
Dan: What are your artistic influences, and who are your favourite contemporary artists?
Marc: I am very inspired by the natural world and biology as well as traditional artistic practices, natural history, and anthropological museums. Artists such as Frida Kahlo, Goya, Francis Bacon, Marlene Dumas, Klimt, Egon Schiele are a few of my favourites.
Living in London I have met some fantastic contemporaries. It is inspiring to be in a city where there are so many incredibly talented people.
Dan: When you’re in the studio, do you listen to music, audiobooks, Radio 4, or do you prefer to work in silence?
Marc: That depends. Sometimes I listen to music, other times silence is golden.
Dan: How was your recent exhibition at Worldy Wicked & Wise Gallery, and what is coming up next for you?
Marc: It went great. It was good to get my work shown in the West, as I am fairly new to London having been here just over a year. I have just returned from Paris as I was in a group exhibition with Afikaris and am part of Nou Wave at The Old Biscuit Factory this week.
It’s been a good, steady busy year. There are a couple of possibilities in the pipeline for 2020, one of them is that I hope to get my work to LA. The last few months have been non-stop, so to be able to get back into the studio without a deadline is going to be great!
Dan: Where can we see more of your art in the flesh or online?
Marc: I have a studio at London Bridge and my website is www.marcstanding.com.