Mark Demsteader: Clarity in Abstraction

Famed for his series of portraits and studies of Hollywood star Emma Watson, Mark Demsteader’s figurative work has cemented him as one of the most popular artists in the United Kingdom today. Mark’s work is collected worldwide and in particularly high demand, so we at Hancock Gallery are thrilled to exhibit some of his latest work.

Manchester-born Mark Demsteader found his love for art when visiting The Louvre, as he comically reminisces, 

“So we went in and it was this massive room full of pictures, I’d never seen anything like it. And I remember thinking ‘How do they do this?’, I tried to feel a bit of the corner and this guard came jumping out screaming and shouting. So I guess it’s from there just that curiosity, that’s basically what I’ve been working on.”

Although his passion for art sparked at a young age, Demsteader’s father, a butcher, was concerned at the concept of a creative career and urged the budding artist to pursue a more practical occupation. Demsteader often recalls his fifteen years spent working in the abattoir while attending weekly drawing classes ‘to keep sane’ as a welcome escape.

Demsteader’s work is notably influenced by some of the old masters, and elements inspired by these artists feature in his work; The rich colours Degas, the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt and the line work of Egon Shiele are just some features the artist recreates in his own practice.

The artist’s more recent works see a shift from the more linear subjects, seen in works such as ‘Looking Back’, as the use of oil paint in layers creates luscious textures. Demsteader’s oils see evolution in his abstract approach to presenting his muse, where the decisive mark-making volunteers just enough to communicate to the viewer without becoming overbearingly literal. The resultant piece draws in the viewer with deep backgrounds and thick colours, while the artist’s vague strokes restrict the level of relationship with the model. This contrasting push and pull quality much mimics that of the artist’s relationship to his subject.

“The models are professional models, I don’t know them personally. I like the distance. I think referring to someone you know, it changes the piece, it gives it a different feel as opposed to an observation.”

The newest collection of Demsteader’s oil paintings currently in the gallery are spellbindingly beautiful. Much like the work of Rothko, the depth of colour swamps the viewer. A new take on suggestive landscapes envelop the subject, who becomes not quite in or out of place, but is almost wrapped up in something unknown. A new practice of juxtaposing vibrant reds, blues and pinks in clothing against a dark and indulgent landscape creates not only a stunning backdrop, but an air of atmosphere surrounding the subject that suggests both familiarity and the unknown.

Explore Mark's latest collection here.