Mark tell us a bit about yourself, your journey as an artist and your practice in collaboration with Tamiko O’Brien?
I was lucky enough to spend two years at Darlington Hall School in Devon before doing my Foundation course at Central School of Art and Design. I did a BA in Fine Art at Bristol Polytechnic and then went on to do an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art - graduating at the same time as Tony Cragg in the mid 70’s. I spent 10 years in London, exhibiting, making one off commissioned works for architects and part-time teaching at Maidstone College of Art and as a visiting lecturer at numerous other art schools. My Acme studio was at the old pie factory in Acre Lane in Brixton. My first solo exhibition was at the Felicty Samuels Gallery in London in 1980. In 1981 I travelled to India and southeast Asia and this influenced the work I made over the next 10 years - working extensively with stone and producing work for external and public spaces. By 1986 I had two children with my wife Juliet and having a more consistent income became a priority. I was invited to apply for a FT teaching job at University of the West of England, in Bristol (my old college) which I was offered. I spent the next 20 years working at the UWE, keeping my art practice going and being involved in a wide variety of exhibitions and projects. I also experienced a 1 year teaching exchange to Towson State University in Baltimore, USA. In 1998 I started to collaborate with Tamiko O’Brien who was by this time my partner. Our collaboration started as a one-off experimental exhibition at the Cable Street Gallery in London. While we both found collaborating much more demanding that we had anticipated, we also found it prompted us to re-think our approach to making sculpture at a very fundamental level. It encouraged us to adopt a more critical and reflexive approach that we found very challenging and rewarding. We have continued to work together and have participated in projects, exhibitions and residencies in Japan, Italy, Holland, Germany and the UK.
You’re currently the Dean of Academic Programmes at Central Saint Martins, talk to us about what that role entails and how your career developed to this point?
Like many of my peers I began my teaching and academic career as a part-time lecturer at various art schools in the UK. When I moved to Bristol in 1986 to work at UWE I was a lecturer, senior lecturer and then Head of Sculpture before taking on the role of Fine Art Course Leader. I later became Head of the School of Fine Art until I was appointed Dean of the School of Art at CSM in 2008.
I have a fantastic job, mostly because I work with wonderfully talented, energetic and committed colleagues, and students. My role as Dean of Academic Programmes is enormously varied, and the pace of life at CSM keeps me on my toes.It can feel like spinning at least 20 plates at any one time. I work very closely with the colleges senior management team where we deal with the hear and now, and discuss future scenario’s. I work closely with four programme directors and we discuss a wide variety topics such as new staff, appointments, curriculum development initiatives, resources, the NSS, student and staff issues, external and international projects, research agenda’s, alumni relations,scholarships and much more. I lead on particular projects such as our collaboration with Tokyo University of the Arts, I am chair of the UAL Deans group, and until recently I was part of the executive board of ELIA (European League of Institutes of the Arts) based in Amsterdam. I have a fantastic PA, Brydie Scott who is incredibly patient in helping me deal with a very busy daily schedule.
CSM itself is a world renowned arts institute, for those not familiar with what it offers students tell us more about the programmes and extra curricular opportunities it offers to young artists?
CSM has the widest range of UG and PG courses of any of the UAL colleges that includes Drama courses in Acting, Character Animation, Dramatic Writing and Performance: Design and Practice, as well as Product Design, Fine Art, Jewellery, Ceramics, Fashion, Architecture, Culture, Criticism and Curation and a huge Foundation course. We are launching a new MBA in collaboration with Birkbeck this September. This will be a low residency PG course following a similar format as MA in Arts and Cultural Enterprise that is now in its second year, in tandem with partners in Hong Kong. Graphic Communication Design and Fine Art are the largest programmes in the college that each have UG courses with a total of between 450 and 550 students. The Fine Art BA course is unique in offering a one year Diploma in Professional Studies that enables students to take a year out at the end of the second year to undertake work placements anywhere in the world. Students have worked with some extraordinary arts organisations and as assistants to prominent artists and return to college for their final year with a much clearer focus and greater confidence about what they want to achieve. The college also has some brilliant hybrid PG courses such as Narrative Environments, Material Futures. MA Innovation Management and Art and Science. What is often overlooked is the number of Artcom courses at CSM - there are about 1000 short courses when I last looked, that around 15,000 students attend throughout the year using the colleges studio’s and workshops and off site venues.
‘Big White Wall’ is a huge opportunity for CSM students, it’s an annual competition that invites students to submit proposals for a large scale contemporary artwork. Tell us more about the origins of the competition and how its developed over the years?
The project came about when I pitched the idea to Liquitex and Mark Cass (Cass Art) who were excited enough about the idea to sponsor the competition. I have always felt that my role at CSM is to try and create the conditions for students to do extraordinary things. The huge white wall at the end of the street at CSM (30 m x 10m) is calling out to be used and experimented with to see how working on such a massive scale can impact the space and provoke creative thinking.
Cross Hatching is the culmination of this year’s Big White Wall, where did the idea come from and what types of artists were involved in its creation?
This year the winning proposal was submitted by the BA Textiles and the MA Culture Criticism and Curation course. They picked up on a project that an MA CCC alumni was doing on wallpaper designed by Edwardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson back in the 1960’s. A group of 29 textiles students used this research project as a point of departure to make printed images and collages using LIquitex acrylics and gels mediums with discarded technology components . These were attached to irregular shaped frames that hung on and off the wall. The MA CCC students wrote a text, promoted the work and helped lead a public workshop. It was brilliant.
Although the work has now been taken down as we need the space for the degree shows you can see it online here:
INTERVIEW by ART WEEK / HANNAH SMITH. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT http://www.arts.ac.uk/