Interdisciplinary artist Mark William Wilson of Springs maintains that he is able to communicate the cosmic energy of the universe through his art.
In support of this ambitious claim, Mr. Wilson makes use of myriad devices—from pendulums to natural driftwood to intravenous feeding and hydrating bags—to create fascinating drawings, wooden tables and chairs that reproduce the rhythms of nature. Examples of his work are on view through April 2 in “Life in Dead of Winter,” an installation at Glenn Horowitz Booksellers and Art Gallery (87 Newtown Lane, East Hampton).
In a recent interview, the artist explained that he has been working with pendulums as an artistic tool for about three years. He suspends the pendulum from the ceiling directly above a canvas, allowing it to swing naturally with the earth’s motion as it dispenses pigment onto the surface as the canvas is being shifted. Mr. Wilson sees in this process the cosmic energy of the solar system being transcribed into works of art.
The technique is a reflection of the artist’s belief that the various components of the universe work toward the formation of art, with humans merely serving as conduits assisting in the transcription of what eventually appears on the canvas. Or, as he put it: “Gravity, rotation, and the movement of the sun and the earth have their way with the drawing, and I am just here to channel it in some kind of direction.”
The majority of his installation at Glenn Horowitz is comprised of intricate wall pieces fashioned from diluted bleach, acrylic paint and graphite on cotton rag paper that has previously been soaked with aniline dye. It takes several days for the carbon-based, industrial dye to be fully absorbed into the paper, which he claims changes the paper’s chemical structure and gives it “a nice, velvety depth.”
Once this step has been completed, Mr. Wilson pumps the bleach, acrylic, or graphite onto the work from an intravenous bag attached to the swinging pendulum.
The various effects created by the pendulum technique are immediately evident in a pair of wall pieces, “These Stars Are the Expressions of Love” and “Emblemata,” in the gallery’s rear room. While both are composed of the same “ingredients”—pendulum-spilled bleach on a dark, aniline-dyed background—the images are very different. “Emblemata” incorporates a Saturnesque set of rings, while “These Stars Are the Expressions of Love” traces an intriguing trajectory of bleach splotches in the form of an arch.
Asked about the different effects yielded by the use of the pendulum in the two pieces, Mr. Wilson remarked that they reveal “how many possibilities there really are within one dynamic” of the instrument. The arching pattern of the bleach’s larger splotches in “These Stars Are the Expression of Love” was not an intentional gesture, he said, adding that the seemingly arbitrary splotches outside of the arch might reflect more of the artist’s hand.
The viewer’s eye is “drawn to where there isn’t a perfect rhythm,” he said, to where he moved the paper “at an inconvenient moment to reflect ?the instrument’s movement.” These ?imperfections, the artist explained, ?provoke an intriguing disharmony in the eye of the viewer.
“That moment in time, in which the pendulum dappled the bleach marks along the paper, is now fixed forever,” the artist said, “and I am able to feel that energy” that permeates the piece. He also explained that the piece’s title, “These Stars Are the Expression of Love,” is a direct allusion to a lecture of the late-19th/early- 20th-century Austrian philosopher and professor, Rudolf Steiner, who claimed to have mystical capabilities.
In a digitally enlarged wall piece, “Iris Print,” Mr. Wilson used the cyanotype technique, one of the earliest photographic processes, by exposing leaves in direct sunlight for several minutes on top of a prepared piece of paper. Again, the results speak to the artistic power of nature: the sun’s ultraviolet rays burn an impression of the leaves onto paper, creating a beautiful imprint in the form of a silhouette.
Mr. Wilson has drawn a large quantity of his art supplies from the East End beaches, gathering driftwood scraps to make wooden benches, chairs and tables.
“I began collecting driftwood when I needed furniture pieces for my three-room fisherman’s shack on Accabonac Harbor,” he remarked. The artist applied his energy theory to this raw material. Trees, he said, embody “cycles of whatever form of energy … Trees grow, live, die, wash around in the ocean, and return into another cycle.” By integrating driftwood into his work, he said, he is bringing the tree remnants into a new cycle.
The driftwood pieces currently on display at the Glenn Horowitz Gallery include a long, curved bench with multiple parts fitted neatly together to form a snazzy, modernist shape; a delicate, exotic looking chair with a tall back frame that is adorned with countless natural fine ridges; and, in the front room of the gallery, a wooden column that, though only recently installed as a part of Mr. Wilson’s show, has the appearance of bolstering the ceiling. Asked if he has made use of the dining table exhibited in the gallery’s back room, the artist shook his head before eagerly adding, “Come, sit here, have a cup of tea and conduct some energy!”
More than six feet high, the majestic chair, a hollow fragment of what once was a tree trunk, is the most intriguing furniture piece of the artist’s installation. Talking about its polished yet primordial presence, Mr. Wilson credited its beauty to a “perfection of the imperfect shape” that nature has provided. He also commented on its “insulated feel,” as the chair seems to wrap around anyone sitting in it.
Born in Tamworth, Australia, and raised in Sydney, Mr. Wilson studied semiotics and photography at the Sydney College of the Arts before permanently relocating to the United States in 1982. He had a transcendent experience when he came across Lucas Cranach’s “The Judgment of Paris” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which references the coalescence of the natural world, humanity, and the divine in its depiction of three unclothed goddesses in a natural setting.
The early Northern Renaissance ?painting was the original version of a reproduction his sister had brought ?home from her art history course during his youth. When he saw the original, Mr. Wilson recalled, its mythico-poetic features rendered it “the most beautiful and erotic [work of art] I had ever seen.”
Taking in this masterpiece inspired within the artist what he called a “sensitivity and sensibility of relating to the world” that has since guided his own work.
The next installation on the horizon for Mr. Wilson will focus on another theme, the presence of the absent—or, as the artist puts it, “the illusion of something appearing to be what it isn’t.”
For more information on the artist and “Life in Dead of Winter,” visit the Glenn Horowitz Bookseller’s website at www.ghbookseller.com.