Mark Rodgers: Preserving A City

To find beauty wherever it lies, is the overriding intention to the new works by painter Mark Rodgers. Visitors to the gallery space at Hull Central Library have been cheered by the familiar Hull views and landmarks, all done in his trademark vigorous style. 

ferral bridgeDuring the summer months Mark is often to be seen on the streets of Hull, with his easel and canvas, capturing some forgotten romantic corner. He will often get passersby asking him why he is painting Hull. I asked him the same question and his response echoed the growing concerns about the city, as the landscape, physical and societal, changes beneath our feet. 

The rush of paint, the thick ridges daubed on the canvas, are suggestive of the need to capture as it is now, in the moment, before it is gone.

The dominant colour palette in the Hull scenes, appears to be blues and greens, as opposed to the expected browns and grey: artistic licence that lends the city a vivid even brash appearance.  

‘I work quite quickly,’ he explains,’ It gives the painting a feverish energy.’ 

Due to the nature of the work being created outside, members of the public can become entwined in the pictures, to become part of a hidden narrative. The girl in the background in the view of Queen’s Gardens, battling with anorexia: on this day she has come out the house, to join in the Freedom Festival celebrations. 

canvas editMark has featured on Landscape Artist of the Year, as a wild card entry in to the Sky Arts show. During the show he painted an unexpected Cornish scene, instead of doing the expected sprawling vista, he turned his easel around and painted what was behind him, a quiet corner, adding his own narrative to the painting.

Whilst I’m in the gallery, he makes a sale right there and then. His work has popular appeal, it doesn’t feel like it is trying to tax your brain, or to trick you. They are mostly scenes you recognise, City Hall, Tower Night Club and the Guildhall all painted al fresco, in bold colours and strokes, capturing a scene, preserving a city ‘like a fly trapped in the amber of his own mind‘ before it is replaced by the shiny and new. 

banner canvases

Examining a painting depicting the view from the top of Lowgate, with St Mary’s Church to the right, I spy a row of shadowy figures in the foreground, seemingly blocking the street. I immediately think they are protesters, making a stand for some political cause. A chap beside me sees them not as figures, but as a barricade of barbed wire, perhaps signifying  the city’s current siege mentality, a battle between old and new ideas, whereas a third believes they are a crocodile of schoolchildren, on their way to the church.  

Mark explains he was actually recalling the Lord Mayor’s Parade – a once proud part of city life that has now lost its appeal – when he drew in the figures in the painting. In some of the work you can find these hints at underlying messages, important questions over ownership and access to our heritage. 

I ask Mark about the recent changes to the city and his answer puzzles and amuses me in equal measure. ‘They’ll have to change the bus routes,’ he says implicitly. 

river Hull canvasI rather feel this particular Hull artist is caught up in the nostalgia of the place he loves to work in, caught up in the romance of it all, as he busily captures the flora in the green spaces, adds a cloud or two scudding lazily over the Hull skies before the light goes and can paint no more.  

To see more work and purchase original canvases go to:

http://www.markrodgersgallery.com/home.html 

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