ABOUT MARK GIBBS
On most days Mark can be found at the easels in his surprisingly large studio, bathed in natural light. He overlooks the trendy end of Montague Road in Brisbane’s arts-infused inner suburb of West End.
“Quite frankly, I feel like a pig in shit,” he says disarmingly. “For so long I have been looking forward to truly focusing on my fine arts practice and at last I now have the space in my life to completely immerse myself”.
Mark has been exhibiting every few years for over 20 years, but painting has always had to be squeezed into the edges of a busy and diverse career. He ran a thriving graphic design studio for many years, counting Adelaide’s top advertising agencies, wineries and even Adelaide Bank among his leading clients. But the world has changed since then. “Nobody calls themselves an advertising agency any more”, he explains.
“When graphic designers become one of the world’s trendiest careers, they were suddenly thick on the ground with every art college and university pumping them out” he says. So Mark moved on to take on various marketing management roles and even becoming a stockbroker for a few years. Along the way he earned an MBA before establishing a marketing consultancy, mainly advising professional services providers, mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs and contributing his skills on the board of a respected cancer charity.
When I spoke to him, Mark was just four months out from moving to Brisbane from Adelaide. “My wife was offered her dream job at QUT, he explains (ranked in the top 100 universities in the world) – I’m so proud of her. She had a stellar career as a dancer in one of the world’s top contemporary dance companies in London. Since then she was Associate Artistic Director at the renowned Australian Dance Theatre for a decade, now she is lecturing in dance and working on her PhD”.
Becoming a professional artist could be interpreted as adopting a more leisurely lifestyle, “but nothing could be further from the truth,” says Mark. “I have built two successful businesses in my time but building recognition as an artist will be my hardest challenge yet, by far. I’m giving it everything I’ve got with long hours and more motivation coursing through my veins than I have ever experienced before”.
It’s also a significant adjustment, he admits. “As a graphic designer or consultant for so many years I was paid by the hour learned to make every scrap of time count. No I’m finding it ridiculous how long it can take be to produce a single painting, I’m too scared to count the hours. And then there are those long days when you paint your heart out and end up deeply unhappy with the result!
The time spent preparing for a new work is significant. Mark’s current series is surrealistic landscapes that he strives to make almost believable. “Usually artists work from something they can see,” he explains, “or if they are painting something from their head their work can look highly stylised. I strive to recreate images I see in my head, many of which come to me through my meditation practice. I want my surrealism to look believable before the viewer stops a minute and thinks, ‘hang on a minute, how could that be possible?’”
Asked about his prospects, Mark is divided in his response. “I’ve often felt like I’m swimming against the tide in life, but now in the current arts climate I feel like I’m up against a tsunami” says Mark. “Never in history has there been more artists in our community, but I’m somewhat bemused at how many artists outside the much-disparaged ‘commercial’ environment can’t really draw and haven’t really developed high levels of technical skills. In other areas of the arts, be it music or performance, dance or poetry, you can’t make it to the ground floor without significant levels of skill. In the visual arts it’s actually uncool to display high levels of technical competence. So many artists fly under the banner of ‘conceptual artists’, but ultimately the work they actually produce is nothing more than decorative art, bought by moneyed consumers because their splotches remind them of a landscapes or match the cushions on their new sofa.”
“At the end of the day I have to just be true to myself”, he says. “Perhaps that will just mean that my reward will one day be a great-great grandchild looking up at a work their dad has preserved and thinking that it’s cool. A part of me that endures long after I have departed this planet.”
Mark Gibbs is a professional artist now based in the inner-city suburb of West End in Brisbane, Australia. For many years he ran a respected commercial design studio, developing deep experience in graphic design, digital art, typography, photography and art direction.
As an artist he has been headlined in over ten significant exhibitions across Australia over a period of 20 years. As a designer and writer his commercial clients have included banks, major corporations and government. During the nineties he freelanced extensively, working for many of Australia’s iconic advertising agencies.
A visual artist with an MBA, his focus and passion now extends to painting, photography and digital art. His Quantum Series is inspired by the scientific discoveries of the sub-atomic world of quantum mechanics, where reality often unfolds in counter-intuitive and almost mystical ways, and the questions scientists are addressing about the the phenomenon of human consciousness.
Mark Gibbs has been headlined in ten exhibitions around Australia and included in numerous group shows.
Major exhibitions by Mark Gibbs
2010 Gods and Goddesses. Gold Coast City Gallery
2009 Gods and Goddesses. Greenhill Galleries, Adelaide
2008 Naked Art. Artstyle Galleries Adelaide
2007 Elements. Artstyle Galleries Adelaide
2000 Naked Below the Surface. Central Gallery Adelaide
1999 Eyescapes. PCL Exhibitionists Sydney
1998 Auric Fields. The Myer Centre Adelaide
1997 Essential Oils. PCL Exhibitionists Sydney
1996 Nude Forms. SOHO Galleries Sydney
1995 Lifeforce. Hilton International Adelaide