Second Sight – Mark Gleason’s “Hangry”
Mark Gleason, Hangry
The wolf is eating an unseen person/the viewer. This is definitely molded by the mythology in Little Red Riding Hood, and the wolf at the door. I’m a big fan of film noir, and so his presence is announced by the shadow. I saw a comical illustration of a wolf with a knife and fork in his hands, and the title was Hangry, and I stole that title, and the utensils pretty much set the stage for something sinister. There’s also a portion of a welcoming red carpet in the upper corner. The feet of the wolf are grounded at the base of the shadow.
I’m not a big fan of horror movies per se, or at least nothing after the 70’s. Hitchcock, yeah. David Sylvian sang: “I wrestle with an outlook on life that shifts between darkness and shadowy light.” I’m always in a Hamlet state of tension, always struggling with dualities, always occupying limbo, the liminal, and somewhere, triangulating the dualities is resistance, which also seems to be a constant state for me. I’ve had some serious dealings with depression in my past, and so in my life, in my taste in the arts & literature; psychology and the existential question is my native tongue. It’s the medium I move through. Plus, I’m married to a psychologist, so it’s pretty much my environment!
The tension aspect though, that’s what interests me as a creator of images. The act of painting is increasingly becoming the ground on which I interrogate the self, others, the environs. Many of my figures are in that suspension, that tension that comes with resistance to some other. Many of them are making decisions about fight or flight, and as someone whose psyche was formed under the constant weight of those 2 choices, it’s only natural that the tension appears in the work.
Is violence beautiful? The short answer is: In life, no. In art, yes.
I am a staunch opponent to real and pervasive violence, acts done unto others, and behaviors that result in pain and loss of dignity. That topic demands a whole other diatribe which shall not be part of my response. As a painter, this inquiry points to the aesthetic domain, and I suppose some see a violent aspect to my imagery. Certainly, I see and I push the potential for violence in my tableaux. I prefer the tension of such in my work, the suspension between thought and act.
Yes, it can be beautiful, though that isn’t something I fully understand. The very first painting depicted the hunt and predation of animals. I find majesty in bullfight imagery, though the reality is something else entirely, and sickening. It can be beautiful if we don’t have to deal with it, if we can suspend the costs and consequences.
When I was a film student in my first phase of college, we discussed the “balletic” violent imagery of Penn and Peckinpah, the mythology of the west, and the singularly American theme of “regeneration through violence” that is our culture’s structuring metaphor. Like the scorpion in the fable, it’s our nature.
Aristotle claimed such things could be cathartic. I don’t know. I would argue that there is beauty in a certain depiction of violence that would actually interrogate our fascination with it, one that would confront the viewer by compelling us to contemplate our own reflection.
The OED defines violence as an “exercise of force so as to inflict injury on, or cause damage to, persons or property.” Digging into the Latin violentia we find the roots of vehemence, impetuosity, and treatment with violence, outrage, dishonor. Does this definition incorporate force or dynamic energy? The tenets of Hinduism come into question. Does violence necessarily involve physical harm, or shall we also speak of the emotional, the moral, and the affective realms? Does violence require a victim? Does there have to be an individual protagonist, or can violence be found in a collective? Is violence only destructive or can it be creative? Can it produce the new, or only annihilate?
This is an elusive dimension, getting even further away from a black or white answer. I am inspired by the stylized violence of silent film slapstick and Road Runner cartoons. I find beauty in Goya and Francis Bacon, majesty in Moby Dick, glamour in Nick Cave. Contradictions run rampant. I do this, not to vent demons, but to shake hands with them.
Is the work then, beautiful? You tell me.
I use flats and brights, and often use brushes meant for watercolor. I basically go through the store and think “Oh, that one will work for what I’m doing,” with very little regard for the bristle composition. I use Michael Harding paints, exclusively, in an Apelles/Zorn palette. I use Damar and turpentine, and once everything has dried I give the whole thing a thin coat of microcrystalline wax (incaustic stuff) to unify and flatten. This also helps a lot in photographing it, as it cuts down on glare. I would say the only special trick I pull is that I lay my gesso on and let it do what it may as far as texture goes. I never use an absolutely smooth surface. As the paint goes on from grisaille to the final touches, I sand & scrape with razor blades, and that furthers the texture, particularly with the wood grain on the floor with this piece.