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Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
2:42 PM 22nd June 2020

The Artistry Of Lancashire: Mark J Ratcliffe

Spirit of the Sea
Spirit of the Sea
How many readers have long abandoned their artistic endeavours for want of time? “No time to spare!” we all cry. And in many cases it is true – there are only so many hobbies to seize the precious spare time we enjoy; however perhaps lockdown has changed this for you, and maybe you’ll be inspired to dig out the watercolours and the oil pastels once again.

Cleansing Wave
Cleansing Wave
Mark J Ratcliffe can certainly provide the inspiration. He balances a full-time job with his artistic activities and still find time to sell his work and respond to commissions!

Art is undoubtedly open to interpretation – one great joy is in observing how people can have such a contrasting reaction to the same piece of work. For some artists this might be daunting, but Mark relishes it. His work, described as “modern abstract” is often experimental, using acrylic paints on canvas, literally using a pouring technique in which acrylic paint is mixed with a silicone oil and poured onto a canvas. But don’t be mistaken into thinking it is a simple process – there is a huge amount of skill and technique required.

Mark creates pieces that relate to diverse people, places and environments. He can see many things in the paintings he creates and is fascinated to hear the interpretations of others in response to his work. He draws the connection to diversity with the fact that he begins every painting with a blank canvas, he designs what he wants and then the resulting image is interpreted in the eye of the beholder. Therefore what is seen by the observer differs from person to person, it is diverse, it perhaps represents something specific to a viewer – what they see is perhaps representative of what they are thinking or feeling at that precise time. There is no right or wrong answer, as Mark says, “Abstract [art] allows the imagination to explore.”

Fire Cave
Fire Cave
Mark also takes great pleasure in the experimental processes. Much of what appears on the canvas is a consequence of colour choice and technique – how colours are mixed creates a different effect on the canvas and use of silicone creates a depth to the pictures. Some of his best pieces have not followed from his original intentions – it’s the thoroughly engaging process of creativity – plunge in and see where it takes you. Sometimes allowing yourself that liberation produces the best of work – you’re not confined to set parameters and you can let your creativity guide the way. Mark calls it living in the moment: perhaps therefore his work could be viewed as a colourful mirror of sorts. In the same way that the viewer’s response might depend on their thoughts and feelings, perhaps for the artist, the techniques employed are also influenced not just by what he hopes to achieve, but also by the inner intrigues of his mind as he guides the paint across the canvas.

Mark finds a great deal of peace in his artistic activity: it provides a place to relax, to unwind and detach from the stress of a hectic day at work. For him, he says, it is a form of therapy – certainly a concept I think many of us can relate to. Art can be so fulfilling – albeit frustrating too, at times! - but it is absorbing and embracing as an activity. And Mark wants his viewers to be able to form a connection with his pieces. He wants them to find that “something special” in what they see, that allows them to form the bond. He recently visited Australia where he fell in love all over again with Aboriginal Art – its rawness and spirituality, the colour and attention to detail. He found a connection to the art he saw there and would hope for people to be able to do the same with his own pieces.

The role of art as a comfort and reward has increased for Mark during lockdown. His “day job” didn’t stop and has been busy, but like us all, lockdown has given Mark time to reflect. He is thankful of his friends and family and having the space in which to be creative. He has in fact sold a lot of pieces in recent weeks which naturally has given Mark a boost.

Mark, as said, loves to see how people respond to his work. He says that every human being is different and has their own opinion about art, and their own response. Art these days occupies an ever more diverse arena with so many people responding artistically and creatively to the questions and challenges of the wider world. He therefore thinks art plays an important role in modern life, consciously or otherwise. As an artist he loves the freedom he has in his creations. It can sometimes be a challenge – for example, when working on a commission and the customer has only specified the colour scheme. There is always the worry as to how they might react.

He is inspired by the work of South Florida-based artist Molly (https://mollys-artistry.com/) with whom he’d love to collaborate as he admires her energy and appetite for experiment. For any aspiring artist his advice is to never give up and to believe in yourself – with hard work and determination you can achieve anything.

Mark sells his work through his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MarkJRatcliffeArt/ and new work can be viewed on his Instagram page @MarkJRatcliffeArt. You can also follow him on Twitter - @MarkJRatcliffe. He hopes to have a live exhibit once lockdown is over so do watch this space!