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In Conversation: Mark Alsweiler

Mark Alsweiler’s work is instantly recognisable. He is known for his quirky representations of the built environment and its curious inhabitants, and his dramatic use of colour. We’re long time fans of Alsweiler’s, and we’re delighted to welcome him into the gallery for his first solo exhibition at Modern Times, Of Found Activity.

Ahead of his upcoming exhibition, we spoke with Alsweiler about creating this body of work, and how giving way to a more organic process has instigated a welcome shift in his artistic approach.

Read on for a little window into the vibrant and delightful worlds depicted in Alsweiler’s pieces, and download the catalogue here to view all the paintings and works on paper in this exciting upcoming exhibition.

Mark Alsweiler is based in Melbourne; he works across drawing, painting, and sculpture.

Can you tell us about Of Found Activity and what this collection of work represents to you?

I’ve been working a lot more from photos that I have been taking around the city. I’ve learnt that spending time outside the studio can be beneficial in the long run in terms of coming up with ideas or building up reference material to work from, even though it may feel unproductive at the time.

Plus it’s about just letting things happen without getting in the way too much – more like when you made things as a kid. It’s easy to overthink things and lots of ideas often don’t end up getting explored. With this exhibition, I’ve tried to balance the considered ideas with a more flowing way of working.

His upcoming exhibition at Modern Times, Of Found Activity, includes both paintings and works on paper.
I've tried to balance the considered ideas with a more flowing way of working.”
— Mark Alsweiler
He is known for his quirky representations of the built environment and its curious inhabitants.

Your work is characterised by crisp geometric forms and bold colour blocking. From where do you draw your visual inspiration, and was there anything specific you wanted to explore while creating these new works?

Everyday and ordinary things, lots of building frontages, patterns and overlooked details from around the city. The figures are more from out of my head.

I was interested in contrasting the static nature of the paintings with a sense of movement or passing time. 

These new works see Alsweiler boldly lean towards reductive abstraction in exchange for a previous sense of realism, yet the idiosyncratic mood remains.
Alsweiler’s signature pops of ultramarine blue are present throughout this body of work.
The figures that inhabit his works are 'treated more as a compositional element than a part of any narrative'.

The figures that populate your work are often positioned in isolation from each other, without appearing to interact. Is this a conscious decision, or is the placement informed by the architecture?

I start with the background drawings so it is mainly to incorporate them into the composition and the architecture. It’s more a result of a kind of collaging wherein they are treated more as a compositional element than a part of any narrative.

I’ve been more interested in placement based on intuition rather than working toward a really planned out direction.

Despite achieving such balance and proportion in his works, Alsweiler says he is 'more interested in placement based on intuition rather than working toward a really planned out direction'.
His bold use of colour is as confident and pleasing as ever.
The figures in his works are dreamed up in his own head, however other element are inspired by 'everyday and ordinary things, building frontages, patterns and overlooked details from around the city'.

If you could collaborate with any artist (living or deceased) who would it be and why?

Maggie Brink. She’s a friend so it’d be fun and I love her work.

I was interested in contrasting the static nature of the paintings with a sense of movement or passing time. ”
— Mark Alsweiler
After spending more time outside of his studio, he now finds inspiration in photos taken on walks around the city.
In an effort to allow for more fluidity in his work, Alsweiler says he has 'tried to balance the considered ideas with a more flowing way of working'.

Melbourne’s art world has been continuously interrupted by lockdowns, has this experience changed your approach to your practice at all? 

I think spending time just walking around the city has been helpful in coming up with ideas. It slowed me down with productivity and motivation but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s been somewhat helpful to have a moment to reflect on what I am doing or making, and why. 

Pretty keen to get back to a more normal way of living though.

Reflecting on what he creates and why is an important part of his process, and has allowed for huge growth in his work, while retaining his inimitable aesthetic.

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