Hi Mark, thank you for speaking with us ahead of your upcoming exhibition In Arcadia & Other Works. This exhibition is inspired by Nicolas Poussin’s Et in Arcadia ego; could you tell us more about that?
"I have a number of ideas bouncing around my head so the Poussin painting was one that sprung to mind. I like the way a theme can run through something and influence the atmosphere of the show without dominating the outcome."
Et in Arcadia ego, Nicolas Poussin, 1637–1638
This exhibition contains both paintings and drawings. What is your process like and how do you find working with oil compared to working with collage and pastel?
"I usually work in total chaos to start with which means putting down random passages of paint and then trying to refine it into something. I like the unfinished random bits as they allow the viewer to focus on the more worked up areas. I use a similar process with drawing too; I put down some pastel marks, throw some water on it, then when it’s dry, work over it and see if I can get a recognisable image."
A work in progress, Mark Demsteader
Looking at your paintings, it seems like art must have always been a part of your life. Do you remember your first experience of art and what interested you about it?
"I remember my first exposure to art was on a school trip to France when we were taken to the Louvre. As the doors opened, I was completely amazed, I had never before seen such a sight! There was a rather large painting which I tried to get to and peel back the corner of to see what was underneath… Needless to say, the security guard went mad and I was subsequently in trouble with the teachers, but am still trying to work out how it’s done after all this time."
Paint brushes in Mark's studio
How has your life affected your work? Did your family inspire you to become an artist in any way?
"When I left school, I ended up working in an abattoir as my father was a butcher and that’s what I was supposed to be too. Needless to say, an air of melancholy does underline a lot of my work and I think that must have a lot to do with it."
In Arcadia (in progress), Mark Demsteader
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
"If I wasn’t an artist, I think I would still be working in the abattoir. Sometimes it’s not any kind of talent that drives you, but the fear of failure. I have been fortunate enough that some people take an interest in my artwork and have been lucky in that regard."
Mark Demsteader's studio
And finally, what are your thoughts on art, why does art matter to you?
"I never really sit down and think about art as something that can be explained. It’s something that initially saved me from the reality of where I was and was another more hopeful way of looking at life, and so it’s the path I chose."
Mark Demsteader in the studio
The eCatalogue for Mark's latest exhibition In Arcadia & Other Works can be viewed here.