Mark Brown

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

The relationship between painting and architecture can be determined to have existed at least as far back in time as 15,000 B.C., with the discovery of paintings on a cave wall in Alatimira in northern Spain. The impulse for abstraction is generally believed to have originated in the Neolithic period, the foremost example being the megaliths at Stonehenge. In the early twentieth century, abstract painter Vasily Kandinsky used architectural metaphors such as “structure,” “construction” and “spiritual pyramid” in describing the formal composition of a painting. Piet Mondrian made paintings of church facades that presented him with arrangements of horizontals and verticals, which were to become the exclusive structural elements of his most recognized work.

My paintings are constructed from segments that only have significance in relation to the whole, which is similar in concept to architecture. I have chosen to reduce the compositional elements to a series of generally long vertical rectangles, sometimes stacked, sometimes unbroken, always used as armatures on which to suspend paint and color. The associations these structures hold for me are based on impressions made by buildings in London and New York, where I have lived on occasion. My current studio is in woods containing tall pines and deciduous trees, in winter yielding a landscape of long, high vertical columns.

When I paint, I am primarily concerned with color, structure and proportion. I allow for impulses, notions and chance. This approach enables me to make most of my decisions in the present. The French phenomenologist, Merleau-Ponty, compared the act of painting to stepping into a fog, and described the painter as being like the first man to make a sound, not knowing if it makes sense to himself or anyone else. I work for discoveries—a successful painting for me is similar to having made a new sound that makes new sense. I think of myself as having more in common with the painters at Lascaux than with academics or art theorists.


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