Feature – Mark Lyken

Mark Lyken is undoubtedly one of our favourite artists and individuals that we’ve met throughout this journey. Unbelievably receptive and beyond talented. Here’s his interview from our 4th issue, if you haven’t already read it.

BizarreBeyondBelief: As a Scottish artist, how would you describe the scene in Scotland in comparison to other European artistic communities?

Mark Lyken: Art seems to be embraced more readily and be a part of everyday life in other European cities but of course that doesn’t stop great work being created in Scotland. It does rains a lot here which might be partly responsible for why so much good music and art comes out of this country as folk are forced indoors to create! It does mean there are a lot of grumpy Vitamin D deficient people around though!There is a nice little scene in Glasgow focused around Recoat Gallery, they are a tiny independent space who gave me my first break and who have brought amazing international artists into the country with little or no budget as well as being a spring board for emerging Scottish Artists. They have also become my best friends and I trust them utterly.
I’m currently working on a project called “Sublime” with IOTA in Inverness who make incredible public art projects happen in the Highlands, I’m super excited about it!

BBB: On that note, would you say there is much room for mobility and success in Scotland?

ML: Yup, there are plenty of home-grown success stories. We have an amazing music and arts scene, Glasgow is jumping at the moment! Scotland’s main problem is keeping the talent in Scotland. People tend to establish themselves up here then gravitate down South. Students clamber to study here but then we struggle to keep the graduates. It’s the Brain Drain! But people are going to go where they opportunities are or are perceived to be.

BBB: If you were describe your work to a blind person, how would you?

ML: Are we talking people that have lost their sight but maybe have a visual memory of colours or from birth?
“A chaos of colour and energy. Dry brush concentric circles overlayed on storm clouds. Thin beam-like lines shooting outwards from pockets of bright light – some short and ragged, others precise and striking through the entire painting.”Then I would shout “Bear!!, Oh, Christ a Bear!” really loudly.

BBB: Your art has a very cosmic aesthetic to it, can you describe how your artistic practice developed?

ML: I had been looking at slides of bacterial spread and images of cell replication and began incorporating elements of that into my work. I became interested in meteorological phenomena and the fluorescent palette of deep sea photography. Initially I was directly referencing these thing where as now I paint purely expressively but using that visual language. The worlds I paint are always internal ones, inner rather than outer space.

BBB: Who or what would you say are your biggest influences on your creative practice?

ML: Ooh, different things and different people at different times I suppose. Emotions definitely, I’m pretty much ruled by mine.
All of my work is my attempt to capture my emotional response to an experiences at that precise moment.
It works best if I can get it down while it is still fresh in my head otherwise I’m only painting echoes.

BBB: When preparing for a work how would you describe your approach?

ML: When I’m about to start on a new body of work or a project I go through exactly the same routine every time.
I clean the flat from top to bottom, do the dishes and the laundry – It’s like a reset button, then I will happily work 16 hour days without even noticing. I know History doesn’t remember clean kitchens but I’ve convinced myself it’s a necessary part of my process.

BBB: Your visual work is both public oriented and gallery oriented, is there a different method to your approach when working in either facet?

ML: I suppose with the gallery works they are generally part of a series, united by a theme and with the bonus of being able to spend lots of time on them. Where as the outdoor works are mostly standalone pieces, are more of an instinctive reaction to the space itself and executed relatively quickly. I struggled for a while to connect the parts together, they looked as if a different artist had produced them but lately I feel stylistically the two have jelled. I’m comfortable working on both scales now, that might sound daft but for me it’s not just a case of scaling up or down, they are different beasts and each needs the other to survive.

BBB: Furthermore, how would you say your musical work relates to your visual work?

ML: My studio is split down the middle, painting paraphernalia on one side, musical equipment on the other. Very often paintings and songs will share titles and themes because I will be more or less creating them in unison. I see them as the equivalents of each other.

BBB: When creating works, either audio or visual, is there a certain mood you feel you need to be in or the need to focus on one or the other or do you tend to bounce back and forth?

ML: The same mildly melancholic mood for both! Melancholy is too strong word…introspective? I’ll bet there is a perfect word for it in German! Again because the studio is split down the middle it makes it easy to jump between things if i get stuck or need a break from the other. The only guarantee is that if there is a deadline looming and I am meant to be working on a painting you will definitely find me making music instead (and feeling guilty about it) and vice versa.

BBB: As we all know, both of these industries are very difficult to achieve nominal success, what were your largest inspirations for pursuing a career in these occupations?

ML: Being rubbish at everything else I guess! Growing up all I ever did was draw and would record myself banging pots and pans and acting out stories I had written. My parents and Grandparents were very supportive and as kids we were actively encouraged to create (My younger brother is now a successful Science Fiction and Fantasy writer) we owe so much to our family. It never really entered either of our heads that we wouldn’t do what we do, we are both incapable of doing anything else really. The only real surprise is that it is paying the bills.

BBB: If you’re creating work in a studio, what would be the playlist pumping in the background?

ML: I listen to a lot of ambient or glitchy electronic music: Eno, William Basinski, Alva Noto.
I currently have Ocean Fire by Willits and Sakamoto on repeat. Not exactly pumping but definitely constant.

BBB: What three things, non-art related, Mark Lyken could not live without?

ML: Laptop, mobile phone and Hair Dryer. Technically I could (and occasionally do) live without the first two things but not the hair dryer, I’m only willing to sink so low.

BBB: What’s next for you? Any projects, exhibitions or collaborations we should be on the look out for?

I’m a few weeks into a 3 month artist residency in the Highlands of Scotland with IOTA. I’m working alongside Aberdeen Universities Marine Biology team who are based in a town called Cromarty on the Moray Firth.
I’m working on an installation called “The Terrestrial Sea” – looking at how environment effects behaviour in humans and marine mammals. Crazy stuff, brand new territory for me, my studio is in an old lighthouse!
After that I have work in a group show called “Futurism 2.0” curated by my record label Gamma Proforma, which has an incredible line up of artists, I fell privileged to be in that line up. Beyond that Italy for Part Two of Forms and Spaces collaboration with Moneyless and then who knows?

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