We have an exclusive copy of Mark's picture in
the Stoke (Four Counties) Open, Planespotters, which won
the 2002 Sentinel prize....
Click for full image (120kb)
CREATIVE STOKE interviews Mark Wood:
CS: Mark you're a digital artist based in North Staffordshire,
a University lecturer, and a commercial
creative designer, all rolled into one. Furthermore
you've attracted grant funding in the shape of a Creative
Ambitions Award from West Midlands Arts, which
supported the production of your
MARK: It can seem a conceit to claim so much
but many artists do work across the
"boundaries" imposed by the
institutionalised. The discipline of graphic
design practice - mixed with the exploration
of process gained from printmaking - realised
through the medium of computer technology -
is pretty much "my thing".
Constructed Spaces embodies all the key
aspects of my practice. In retrospect, the
work I'm doing for Constructed Spaces has
been evolving as a "mode of work" ever since
my foundation course at North Staffordshire
Polytechnic in 1987. Much later, a decade
later actually, I realised I'd resolved
something when I made the piece
A Bit Like Penny Lane, on my M.A. degree. The work had qualities that
intrigued me; and not just me, others too.
The landscapes I create are built up from
hundreds of photographs. The photographs are
MARK: ... yes, although "assembled", an
important criterion I use to assess when a
work is complete is the point when the many
images appear to be one. Meaning that, in
the instance of first encounter with my work,
the viewer reads the image in front of them,
at least for a few seconds as being "one
photograph". After that instant the
incongruities I leave in the work reveal the
piece"s true nature; the same person may be
captured walking across the image several
times! Or, the trees of winter and summer
occupy the same "decisive moment". However,
I do remove the evidence of "joins" in the
work. In the photomontage - exemplified by
John Heartfield - the joins of the multiple
images cannot be wholly hidden; nor should
they be. Computer technology allows the work
to be seamless and I enjoy exploring the
unique qualities of a process, so therefore no joins!
CS: Nevertheless, you work consciously uses
discontinuities; and so that perhaps allows
it to come closer to the reality in people's
heads than a "real" photo?
MARK: Yes I do bring together images that
were not shot in the same place, month or
CS: ...and as such, your work perhaps
understands the sort of "critical pride"
people have for their own region. Is there a
desire to celebrate 'the local', a 'sense of
home' in your choice of the Stoke-on-Trent area as the
seam of raw image-making material for your
MARK: I'm photographing Stoke because I can
access it readily; and that does lead to
questioning issues of familiarity and the
'sense' of being local. A logistical reason
for choosing Stoke is that on days of
appropriate weather I can get to locations
quickly. Stitching together hundreds of
shots is time consuming enough, without the
added complication of digitally enhancing an
image because the light was poor!
So my work does celebrate a sense of "home"
town and region, the familiar that I make unfamiliar.
I believe that I'm drawing from the rich
diversity of my local urban environment,
although my work does speak to people who
have never visited Stoke-on-Trent. Some of
my work involves the anonymous vistas of
out-of-town retail parks, punctuated with the
ubiquitous MacDonald's and KFC's. Building
materials and architecture style use to give
a place a singular identity; the red brick
mills of Manchester; the stone-built mills of
Halifax; the concrete of - well - the West
Midlands. The "concrete" remark maybe harsh
but I'm not allying myself with the Spectator
writer who infamously stated that Walsall is
the ugliest town in Britain - "like
Ceausescu's Romania with fast-food outlets".
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that
amongst the 1960s shopping arcades of Stoke
are some wonderful, intriguing and honest
spaces. Now, I don't mean the quaintly
curious alleyways punctuated by trendy coffee
shops, laced with twee pretensions.
CS: One of your best-known images is of
derelict Grand cinema in Leek ?
MARK: The digital image of The Grand relates
to recent changes. The Grand was my local
cinema. It was the last cinema in my
hometown; it's where I saw most of the films
of my childhood. It"s been closed since I
was fifteen and was demolished this year.
People make a place; and over time we all
change; therefore the identity of a place
changes. I've always retained a sense of
home. It's a place where family and friends
reside; though the pressures of work have
forced many close to me to relocate to far
flung places, so "home" isn't quite as cosy
as it once seemed.
CS: Do you see your work as documenting the
erosions and letdowns that took place within
English identity and citizenship, in that time
when the promise of the 1960s faded and 'we' were left
stranded in these rain-sodden peeling
MARK: The themes in my work don't just
comment on the 1960s vision of town planning.
Though your observation is a valid one. I"ve
found places that can be seen as celebrating
the individual's enterprise in the face of
corporate chain-store marketing.
Additionally, I'm looking to populate my new
works. One piece The Garden of Earthly
Delights (after Hieronymus Bosch) will
contain the pensioners that shop in
Newcastle-under-Lyme in the daytime mixed in
with the half-naked, hedonistic club-goers of
the night. The night scenes will have to
wait until high summer!
CS: In Summer 2002 you had a new show in Leek,
MARK: Yes, I took back my
Spaces works from
MADE, who were touring it as a show. Fresh was held at The
Moorland Arts & Antique Centre which is a great space, and
a local resource that deserves support. So I put
most of the touring show in there along with
some early work related to local rural
landscapes. With so much of my work relating
to the values of "home-town" it made sense to
put the show into my hometown. The resulting
show was quite challenging for the lovers of
pastoral landscapes but the resulting
dialogue has been very useful.
CS: What next?
MARK: The New Year is going to be a fabulous
change. I'm focusing my energies on my
personal work and design practice; I've
resigned my associate post at Loughborough
CS: An example of courage to us all.
MARK: The success of Planespotters (see above) is opening up
new possibilities for work; I have been
meeting lots of people with a view to
collaboration. I've been invited to submit
proposals for commissioned work. My new work
builds on the architectural premise of
Constructed Spaces but comments more on
social activities; The Garden of Earthly
Delights and Planespotters are pointers to
the direction of the new work. Greater
contextualisation of my practice through
reading, and my new camera, will both aid
this. The reading helps me take my work
further, building on the practice of other
creatives. My prefessional Fuji digital camera allows me
to take crisp telephoto shots, which means I
can photograph people from a distance; people
act differently once they are aware of my
2003 will see lots of new work being created.
I'll be negotiating further exhibitions,
commissions and residencies. I'll be
updating my web-sites with all the
developments as often as possible.
December 2002: Mark is handed the 2002 Sentinel Prize, awarded by
Stoke City Council's Director of Regeneration (right), on behalf of the
Update: February 2003 - Mark has been offered a solo exhibition
at Keele University's Art Gallery.