Mark Whalen is a mixed media artist based out of Los Angeles, well known in Australia by his street art name Kill Pixie, and represented by the Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane, Australia. He is an experimenter when it comes to materials, creating layered two-dimensional works of meticulous detail alongside a collection of ceramic vessels that mirror the pictorial themes of the former. He coats his acrylic panels in resin, which not only gives them a slick finish, it adds a tone of conservation.
Despite the fact that Whalen’s designerly-as opposed to painterly-sensibilities tell a seductive contemporary story, Whalen has clearly been enticed himself by tradition. Specifically, Whalen has been seduced by the traditions of pictorial representations. His tall solid-toned figures and the geometric planes of pink and blue that they inhabit create a contemporary folk art that owes much to an absorbed iconography of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Grecian pictographs, without borrowing from any one in particular.
Instead of making a historic record, Whalen explores self-invented themes of civilization and ritual through his own ritualistic practices of early morning studio days, dedicated line work, and careful glazes. The invented rituals Whalen paints behind also paint a narrative of social interaction: sometimes sexual, sometimes absurd, and usually both. As imagined ethnographies, Whalen’s tableaus serve as reminders of the mix of colonial fantasy and artistic liberty that have informed art history.
As fitting, Whalen often pairs his two-dimensional series with ceramic works; ceramics being one of the oldest artistic traditions, and the vessel shape being its oldest, most culturally unifying product. The vessels’ presence among Whalen’s false folklores creates a legible link to cultural antiquity.
Text By ESTELLE GERVAIS