The Suffolk Coast
  • Article - Mark Ward Artist

Mark Ward, Artist

Mark Ward is an artist, living and painting in Halesworth on the Suffolk Coast. He moved to the area fifteen years ago, drawn there by the abundance of birds, the year-round music at Aldeburgh and Snape, and the beauty of the coast itself. However, even though Mark is attracted to the coastal landscapes surrounding his home, they do not feature in his work. In fact, he paints scenes of an altogether more dreamlike kind. Painting mostly with acrylics on canvas, Mark depicts surreal settings featuring imagined birds and creatures. These scenes and their exotic features are often inspired in part by Africa, where Mark lived during the 70s.

Though seemingly imaginary, Mark’s paintings always begin with a real image from which he develops an idea. He spends time creating theatrical sets for the animals and birds, and it is often an unusual juxtaposition of objects within these sets that sparks the idea for the painting. Depending on how they are placed or lit, inanimate objects in Mark’s scenes come to represent elements of a natural habitat.

“For instance, socks and gloves can be trees,” he explains. “Boxes are rocks, and cloth becomes foliage.”

This notion is illustrated perfectly in The Foothills, in which Mark’s shiny, plasticky birds sit in nests of shredded paper, atop tree trunks made of brightly coloured socks. In his painting St Michael’s Tern, a delicately made paper tern dives headlong into a green sea – or, if you prefer, an M&S bag.

His style was initially inspired by the exotic jungle scenes of Henri Rousseau: bright, dreamlike, simplistic impressions that came entirely from Rousseau’s imagination, and what he saw in illustrated books.

Though many people have tried to squeeze Mark’s work into a particular genre, his paintings refuse to be labeled. Despite not belonging to a clear category of visual art, Mark often links up with other Suffolk Coast artists to exhibit. A selection of his work is always available to see at the Upstairs Gallery in Beccles, and at the Ferini Gallery in Pakefield.

For more information on Mark, his paintings and upcoming exhibitions, please visit his website.