In conversation with Mark Mann
Exhibition dates: 18/07/2019- 07/08/2019
Location: Gallery in the Lanes, Norwich.
Mann Up is a showcase exhibition featuring ceramics, textiles and fine art pieces by artist, designer and lecturer Mark Mann. Using the seductive and Roman qualities of ceramics, bronze and textiles, Mann’s work is a commentary on society, its injustices and its pleasures. The works explore historical themes with a contemporary relevance.
Mann’s current collection is a celebration of the domestic interiors created by homosexual men in a time when homosexuality was illegal. The work often uses coded imagery to convey queer meaning.
Rarely does Mann shy away from vibrant and bold usage of colour and imagery. It is designed completely to turn heads and drop jaws.
What is your background?
Growing up in rural Norfolk I was always obsessed with birds. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing or painting them. My passion for constructed textiles stems from a family history of needlework and quilting. In many ways I haven’t changed much I’ve probably just become more obsessed.
What drew you to the Arts and eventually lecturing?
Following a degree in Fine Art and Psychology I worked in a drug and alcohol treatment centre before going on to study art education at Cambridge university. This allowed me to go on to share my passion for art and design through teaching and lecturing, which I’ve been doing for the last 16 years. Working with young people is exciting as I get to see glimpses of how they experience the world through their art.
” I wanted to create a collection inspired by the bravery of the queer interior.”Mark Mann
How did you develop the concept for your first solo exhibition, who or what were your biggest inspirations in your latest exhibit Mann Up?
The biggest inspirations came from interviewing men now in their 70-80s who lived in a time before the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Many of these men had to live as bachelors or ‘friends’. Often they were only able to find connection though cottaging and cruising. When men did create their own spaces often these environments were secretive, and little documented evidence of these interiors remains. This led me to investigating the homes of artists who documented their homes in their work.
What aspects of queer history influence your work the most– was there a specific event or movement?
As part of my research, I was lucky enough to visit a reconstruction of the notorious 1934 Caravan Club in London’s Soho created by the National Trust. The Caravan Club was identified by an anonymous rate payer as, ‘a sink of iniquity frequented by sexual perverts, lesbians and sodomites’. It sounded fabulous! This visit, and reading about queer artists and designers, led me to explore the hidden histories of gay men who made domestic environments in a time when homosexuality was still illegal. I then used this as inspiration for a body of work.
What is the most difficult thing you’ve had to do in this installation?
The most difficult part for me was editing the collection. I am someone who thinks and processes ideas through making, so I had a larger body of work than was required. However due to the close working relationship with the gallery they really have made the whole installation pain free. When we had our first meeting over a year ago it was clear that we had a shared vision for the show and it just felt like a great fit.
What do you think the main challenges for an artist operating in the current art market are?
I suppose with social media it’s easy to be overwhelmed by this whole new side of being an artist, sometimes at the expense of working though ideas and having an authentic voice. For me I try and focus on the making as after all I’m still just a boy that likes painting birds.