Mark Tweedie

West Australian artist Mark Tweedie creates figurative paintings thematically centered on ageing, memory, mortality and family. With a sensitive air of nostalgia, he explores formative childhood years, lineage, and domestic life through a painterly approach with particular attention to surface texture. Tweedie spoke to ARTIST PROFILE in Issue 40 about his artistic practice and the existential power of the family photograph.

My practice deals with family and memory. Nothing interests me more than family dynamics and parental bonds. I am slowly processing the makeup of my own extended family by creating paintings of domestic life in a bygone era.

Since adolescence I have had an appetite for ordinary people’s stories about their family and personal lives. I love interview-based television and radio programs such as Conversations with Richard Fidler, Australian Story and Front Up. In fact, any time there is a film, documentary or memoir centred on family bonds, I am hooked and easily affected.

Growing up in a single-parent household from the age of five, I became very aware of the fragility and complexities of the family unit. Memories of my early childhood years are sparse, yet remain vivid. For the most part, the blanks have been filled in by cherished photo albums that remain a tangible record of my family’s time together before we fractured.

In a pre-digital era, if a home was threatened by fire, photo albums were generally the item most people would take first. Concurrently, photographs are discarded, ripped in half, and then there are old negatives, often fading away into nothing, seemingly erasing the past.

I remember the first time I found a box of discarded old family photographs for sale at a flea market. I felt torn between thinking this was depressing and irreverent, and pleased that the presumably deceased people remained part of the present day. I bought most of the box for safe-keeping.

My attachment to family albums has made its way into my practice. Recently, I visited relatives and friends to search through hundreds of slides, photographs and super 8 films, unearthing beautiful, evocative, often incidental and sometimes haunting images.

These seemingly insignificant images are translated into paintings, altering the image considerably while retaining authentic scenes from the past. The resulting body of work is a composite of idyllic domestic life balanced by studies of ageing, grief and death.

Throughout making these works, I have been fixated on concepts about memory, including selective memory and childhood amnesia. My paintings are as much about what is excluded than what is included. This tension between absence and presence drives the narrative and reflects my perception of selective memory. Our ability to forget fascinates me.

While researching this body of work, I stumbled across many images of people who can no longer be identified by their living relatives. Names and identities have been lost with each ensuing generation, with photographs often being the last vestiges of their existence. On some level, my paintings aim to reactivate the subjects’ presence and recover their significance.

@mark_tweedie

EXHIBITION
Births, Deaths & Marriages
7 — 18 February 2018
Saint Cloche, Paddington NSW