About Mark Erickson
m a r k e r i c k s o n p a i n t i n g s
As I stare at a painting by Mark Erickson in his studio on a cloudless blue skied day, the experience is one of color and movement. Bright areas of pigment slash across a night’s eve background or float above expansive landscapes. One becomes gripped by an immediate and powerful response to the sheer explosion of color and the substance of the paint itself. Various areas of colors exist on what appears to be a vast assortment of planes. Some areas leap out and seem to float in front of the canvas. Others fall back, beckoning the viewer to enter further into the painting. The work is entirely original. The concerns are those of an artist fascinated by his own visions and ever mindful of the materials he employs. The work can be experienced as a kind of ‘journey’ in which one can encounter cool blue lakes and fiery mountains.
The appeal in Erickson’s painting is partly due to its spontaneous unchecked expression of energy. The surface is very sensual. You get the feeling of the artist’s physical involvement with the canvas in the creative process, especially in recent paintings such as ‘Reflections’ and ‘Lumen’s Desire,’ which seem to invert the painting process. The surface of the canvas is covered with what feels like textured pigment of the darkest black, a varied bright color and some with gold leaf applied. Beneath the surface are the markings of a painting underneath. Our imagination must reconstruct the painting from what is only hinted at. Looking at these works is like discovering Pompeii beneath ancient lava as though the paint was pulled from the canvas to reveal its underside. His ‘Mercury’ series is a fine example of the archeological approach to contemporary painting.
In his work, what was once a groundbreaking revolution in American art becomes a rich tradition and point of departure. Influences of DeKooning, Rothko, Pollock and Francis are clearly felt, yet the direction is Erickson’s own and the paintings are fresh, new and completely contemporary. History has always been important to Erickson. He chronicles his work carefully, keeping what works for him and incorporating it into new concepts of visual expression. Titles suggest elements of his own history and development. Some reflect the names and places of his forebears, from the western influences of the Swedish and Great Plains background of his father to the eastern New York art and cultural influences of his mother. DeKooning once noted that all paintings are in the long run either landscapes, portraits or still lifes. In Erickson’s work, they are decidedly landscapes, but the terrain traveled is sometimes uncharted and is as “internal” as it is “external”.
Mark Erickson was born in Hollywood, California. His early education was completed in California, Germany and Italy. He is a product of his experience on both continents and a family history combining the traditions of East Coast aestheticism and Wild West freedom. His mother and grandmother were New York artists. They studied under Hans Hoffman and knew Franz Kline before World War II. Erickson’s father was an aircraft designer and pilot, his father’s father a cowboy and a marshal in the Dakota Territory.
After attending college in Southern California, Erickson moved to San Francisco. He completed his education at the San Francisco Art Institute & Academy of Art and the University of San Francisco. He has had one-man shows in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Frankfurt and has collectors from across the United States, as well in Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, England, Hong Kong, Holland and Australia.
Mark’s work has evolved steadily and contains a confidence and maturity gained only by dedication and talent. Sometimes the paintings have a more urban energy with whirring colors flying across a brightly lit metropolis. The shapes, so perfectly formed, propel the pigment off the surface of the canvas. Erickson, transforming the flat plane, breathes life and depth into his paintings and pulls the viewer into the experience. He does this by modulating color against color and form against form in such a way that you feel you can travel within the work.
Erickson humorously refers to himself as a “blue collar painter”. He has a tremendous work ethic and is in his studio nearly every day. It is easy to see his quick progression in experimenting with differing aesthetic issues and emerging with his own very original and individual voice.
Article from a recent exhibition – Donna Seager Gallery – San Rafael, California