The first time I saw one of Mark’s B12 Module paintings on my laptop, I was hooked; so fascinated was I by the impression of an initial reality of what the future could be. In these artworks, the minute details, the delicate lines and shapes that complete a whole organic type structure floating in the darkest depths of space. Painted in sunset oranges, pine greens, sand yellows, flame reds and baby pinks, yet almost comic book in style. The titles of each painting alone are super imaginative, The vast Supernova Reaction, Titania Still Glowing, Cold Existence in Field of Stars could be telling us a narrative of our future. His first solo show in 2015 at the Brighton Art fair featured this series, and since then he appears at The Other Art Fair in London and Brighton twice a year.
Today in London, he has something completely different on display, I am looking at his Titan series, large artworks with a detailed collage of his own screen printing and painted paper applied on an Aluminium panels. Mark’s works are never pre planned he tells me, exploring various techniques, such as applied mixed media, painting, screen printing, collage. An early bird he is in the studio at 5am gradually building up his paintings, its emotional he explains, it’s the layering in his mind his love of texture, homing in on his execution, spending hours to create the proper surface, seven to eight hours straight in the studio wearing masks as he experiments with materials. The results are just beautiful.
Mark I would say on first impression is what I would call a cool Englishman, highly intelligent, he is an innovator, his grasp of subtle and complex humour, his interest in the surreal and quirky. He started out as an animator, a career choice that he made after wanting to be a pilot at the Royal airforce and then changing his mind. He is private, discreet, polite and very interesting. Charlton studied at North East Wales Institute of Art and Design, gaining a BA Hons in Animation Design in 2001. After his degree he taught animation in schools, became a freelance animator and graphic designer and then set up his own animation company. Most of his clients were in the music industry, including the famous band Passenger as well as Frightened Rabbit. His business ran for several years, yet Charlton became frustrated with it and explains how he often felt that the creative control of his work was pressured with limited budgets spending hours at the animation desk. However very grateful for the time and opportunities he had working with many of the artists. He did decide on a different journey and rented himself a studio in Hove and started to create artworks.
Mark was born in Margate Kent, his father was an Electrical Engineer so they traveled when he was young, he grew up in Bangladesh between the ages of two till five, then they moved to Jordan until he was eight, when the family moved back home to Sussex. He has never left the area for long and speaks of his love of nature and spending time with it and how much he enjoys being close too the sea. By contrast he also loves; arguably what some would regard as the slightly disturbing cartoon series Ren and Stimpy, from America in the 90’s; about the frighting psychotic Chihuahua and a docile cat. The incredible 2001: Space Odyssey by Stanly Kubrick, and Sci-fi Eagle comics, from the 1950’s then re introduced in the 1980’s. His love of aeroplanes, mechanics and architecture with a particular interest in a cold war brutalist style, Monoliths he tells me, and he loves concrete as a substance.
All these interests have a clear influence on his work, although each stage of his career as an artist has something completely unique, his B12 Module series and Titan. This year his paintings are what I would describe as sensuous wall sculptures, abstract again with the attention to detail, but this time not to only grab our visual senses but the desire to stroke and touch. As he indulges me with his technique and materials, I stroke the silken texture of concrete and run my fingers over his work, across the lines and ridges that he painstakingly created.
Charlton also runs a print company together with his partner Jackie who also manages the business side of his art. He doesn’t like to be photographed and have his image placed on the internet, but he is open minded with the idea of trying to create an image of him without really showing him as he holds a piece of cake spiked on top of a fork. All this as we are standing in the crowded Victoria House, whilst he is managing his stall and speaking to buyers.
Interview: Antoinette Haselhorst