Sept. 27, 2019

Nickle Galleries celebrates the work of Calgary artist Mark Mullin

New exhibition explores the question of art as an essential means of communication
how to properly play in rainbows #2

Mark Mullin, how to properly play in rainbows #2, oil and acrylic on paper, 42”x 30”, 2018

Mark Mullin

With the work of Mark Mullin, there is always more than meets the eye. The new exhibition, Mark Mullin: I’ll Climb in Your Eyes, focuses on his recent non-representational paintings, and engages with how Mullin’s work functions. Over the past 15 years or more, Mullin’s painting has steadily developed both aesthetically and intellectually. His work is mature in design, in its handling of the medium, its manipulation of the materials. As viewers, we are engaged immediately, drawn into the works and held there. We look at the paintings with the feeling that we almost know what we are looking at — a visual corollary for searching for a word that is “on the tip of your tongue.”

This is a goal that for Mullin is deliberate, which he explains: “It is my strategy that the origin(s) and reference(s) for these works change with interpretation. An organic thread-like filament of paint appears biological, then shifts to Japanese writing found on food packaging, then again to tag-like names from street graffiti. No form settles into character for long before an alternate proposition comes to light. The result is something of an impenetrable ‘catch me if you can’ engagement. The act of looking becomes a fool’s game of defining.”

Mark Mullin: I’ll Climb in Your Eyes gives Nickle Galleries and all viewers the opportunity to visit, or to revisit, questions about the fundamentals of painting as a medium, and as an essential means of communication. Just as there is a distinction between truly non-representational painting and abstraction, Mullin draws a line between what can be understood through spoken or written language, and that which can only be comprehended in visual terms.

The words and stories around Mullin’s work — references to science or nature, ways of being in the world, humorous and somewhat clumsy shapes that summon balloon animals — are helpful in talking to the artist about his work. So too, is the understanding that the nearly narrative feel of his current work is related to the nightly stories he creates for his young daughters. And yet, these paintings are not about any of these things. They feel like that, they feel like something we know, yet that something is elusive.

It seems, perhaps, refreshing to encounter an exhibition that consider painting solely by its own terms. It is a challenging proposition however, to engage with work that is not readily topical, not connected to a discipline outside itself. To move past the modernist and postmodernist battles about the death(s) and rebirth(s) of painting, to consider Mullin’s paintings for what they are – which is not as they appear.

Mark Mullin: I’ll Climb in Your Eyes will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue featuring an essay by Diana Sherlock.

The exhibition is organized by Nickle Galleries with support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and curated by Christine Sowiak, on display until December 14, 2019.

The weekly Nickle at Noon event series will feature related talks and gallery tours. All events are free and open to the public. Learn more by subscribing to updates from Nickle Galleries.

Opening reception

  • Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019
  • 5 to 8 p.m
  • Gallery Hall, Taylor Family Digital Library

Artist Tour

  • Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019
  • Noon to 1 p.m.
  • Nickle Galleries, Taylor Family Digital Library