Mark Pol is a surrealist artist who works and lives in the Netherlands. His work http://www.markpol.nl/ is unusual and intriguing. I wanted to find out what inspires him and keeps him going in a country that gave birth to numerous Dutch old masters. Here’s our cool chat …
MICHAEL: Mark, I see many things in your work. I see Surrealism, bold color, fragmentation and an affinity for feminine spirit. What's going on? How do you see your work?
MARK: I have a vivid imagination about things. I dream of things wherein I believe. I think about the unthinkable. I tell you the truth is worth it. That's my starting point. Then I try to make sketches and then work it out on canvas or paper. The colors come automatically, they are coming while I am painting. The line I follow is the human being in all his weakness and in all his strength. We are animals with brains, so we can plan and think ahead. The female is the strongest sex and the female is the cornerstone of society. I see my work as an artist should see it; he/she must critique society.
And fragmentation depends of my way of seeing the things I am making. I can't work otherwise. If I don’t do this, I have the feeling I am incomplete.
MICHAEL: You say that you have a vivid imagination. Has your imagination changed from the time you were a kid? Do you envision things differently now compared to when you were a child?
MARK: Yes, of course. You have a more clear view of this world and our society. Yes, I have had more trust in people. Now I know how people mostly behave, I see people as dangerous animals. Why? With our brains, we can't behave differently. With our brains we can do good and also do evil things. I try to envision that and paint it in my paintings. Most of my paintings people call them spooky. I can’t imagine why J. I am not depressed, but it is sad that this civilization is disappearing. Maybe technology will help us a little bit, but the difference in poor and rich is becoming too great. If we don't solve that problem, we will get wars again and again. As a simple artist, I can only paint and draw and with a tiny hope maybe some people will listen. But I don't think so. I was my whole life a thinker and a dreamer. You know dreams will never come true, but some will. So I dreamed of being an artist and I'm now a full-time working artist. It is funny how your life will go.
MICHAEL: What is the point of Surrealism? What are we supposed to learn from it?
MARK: Surrealism is around 1920. The first theoretical substantiation of the movement was prepared by André Breton in 1924. The direction of capturing dreams and expressing thoughts led to Figurative Surrealism. This movement is akin to magic realism and is characterized primarily by the juxtaposition of usually not combined. Things are out of context. The representatives of this direction include, Salvador Dali, Paul Delvaux, René Magritte and Hans Richard Giger. I have also developed my own vision of this.
It’s a quest for total renewal of all social and cultural values and norms; a total surrender of the omnipotence of the dream, the subconscious, the coincidence. The surrealists relied on the theories of the German psychologist Sigmund Freud and also on the philosophy of the German philosopher Hegel.
What are we supposed to learn from it? The result was often the exact reproduction of dream images or completely random objects in a space, with the aim of frightened reactions, surprise or excitement among the public. Only by such strong reactions and experiences, do people want to consider what they believe. That's exactly what the surrealists had in mind and I have in mind. Only then can one change the values and standards of the society. It's just a vague hope, but I strongly believe in my ideas and vision. I can't behave otherwise.
MICHAEL: What does surrealism mean to you?
MARK: To me it means a lot. However, lately I 'm moving slowly into another style which one I don't know really. I have an association with dreams. It's a kind of magic which comes out of my brains, I always ask myself what kind of process is creativity? How does it work in my brain? When I’ve finished a work, I'm even surprised what hell did I made now? It is important to me because I never have had "painter’s block" because of that strange process: associations and dreams.
MICHAEL: Do you come from an artistic family? What's your first memory of art? When did you first think of yourself as an artist?
MARK: No, my father was a poor man with a barber shop and my mother was a housewife. I really don't know. I did like drawing when I was a child. I hadn't the slightest idea that what I did was called art. Oh yes, my aunt said to my father once: “He must go to an art school!” My father said okay, but had no money to pay for such an education. There it ended. When I was 22 years old, after military service of two years, I went in the evening and I worked. I went to the Free Academy of Art in The Hague. There I got the feeling, “Well I am maybe an artist!” There I started and did free form works, painting "spooky" things like a devil and an opium smoking old man etc. Of course, also the classical things: portrait, nudes, still life, etc. By the way, my artist name is Mark Pol, my real name is Hans Schwarzkächel.
MICHAEL: Well, I think I might be able to understand the name change. Your aunt clearly had a very powerful influence on you. Tell me about the Netherlands. How does your environment influence you? You have such a strong, old masters art tradition there. Also, do people there understand and respect contemporary art?
MARK: She did. I developed my own style, there is influence, practically speaking. I told you I had my own ideas, let no one change my ideas. There is an old master tradition, but I'm no part of it. This is now and develop your own ideas, let the old masters be great. Try to be great yourself if you have the chance. Some do, others find it bullcrap. They like flowers, sea sights, trees, landscapes etc. I think they don't understand, new times new art, like video art, digital photography etc. But I'm sticking to painting and drawing my own fantasies.
MICHAEL: When you're in front of the canvas and painting, what's going through your mind? Is the process more emotional, intellectual or spiritual? Do things flow well?
MARK: I'm very concentrated. In another world, I don't know where, somewhere in my head. There is a mixture of it. It just must be perfect and also an interpretation of my drawing. Colors sometimes I'm thinking about it, sometimes it comes directly. Or when I'm asleep, then certainly I see the right colors in my dream. I think there is no difference in emotional things which I'm driven by and spiritual things which are already in my brain. Indeed, sometimes it's like a flow of waves. The same thing happens when I'm starting to draw. The same process. It's very difficult to explain what's going on in your brain. It's like to try to lift yourself with your feet. Is this good English?
MICHAEL: I gotcha. Do everyday people in Holland understand and appreciate contemporary art? Are you making a nice living with your art or are your collectors in other countries? How do people there view today's art?
MARK: Well, they think that it is a hoax just to make a lot of money. They think their little brother can do it better. Sometimes I ask myself that what the artists make - is that just to make money or does it come from their heart? I do not make a nice living. Sometimes, I can't even buy paint or canvas. Most of my collectors live abroad. If they are looking to my site and decide to buy a work, that gives me a good feeling. I think they have a different view. They like what I make and buy it. They are more driven by their beliefs in form and color. It's like their music. Different tones and themes, their heart is nearer to their brains. We in the West try to eliminate emotions and feelings, try to translate all things we do into money and profit.
MICHAEL: As you have gotten older, have your thoughts about success changed? What do you consider success now?
MARK: My thoughts were and still are - if I sell enough to make a living, that's okay to me. I think for me it's the same, I hope. A human is a strange animal.
MICHAEL: Finally Mark, What is the point of art? Many people don't care about art. Do we really need it?
MARK: We humans need art to express ourselves, to be creative, to discover new thoughts and new ideas. The complexity of our brain dictates our feelings and the way we see things around us. And sadly, some people don't see, or just don't want to see the beautiful things around us. I think we need beauty and art that keeps us wondering why we are humans and separate from the animals.
MICHAEL: Thanks Mark. Cool chat.
MARK: Well Michael, It was very interesting and thank you for this interview and your work for it.
Check out Mark Pol at http://www.markpol.nl/.