Gallery Girl meets Jade van der Mark

Having originally trained in fashion, Dutch artist Jade van der Mark makes paintings about humanity. Heavily populated by dozens upon dozens of figures, they are reflections of the people she meets living in the heart of London, people on the street or on the tube. Her large, heavily textured canvases are a comment on our diverse but often disconnected communities. Gallery Girl spoke to Jade about the people in these paintings, her background in fashion, and her hopes for the future.

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Detail of Michelle, Jade van der Mark. Image by Barwerd van der Plas

Who are the people in your paintings?

I am a human being, who observes the world and paints stories about it. The characters in my paintings are intuitive and deeply personal creations. Articulating my thoughts verbally has never been a strength of mine. I feel that painting does more justice to my thoughts and my feelings, than saying them aloud ever has. The faces in my paintings are representations of those thoughts and feelings. Much like sound can communicate a word and thereby meaning, a canvas functions for me in that vein too.

The people in my paintings are reflections on my qualms about the indifference permeating our public spaces. Every day I observe people commuting to work, and commuting back home, crossing paths, differing paths. At times these paths collide, provoking a fleeting moment where eye contact is shared, or even more rarely, some words are exchanged. People walk side my side, in front of, or behind another. There are days when I spend hours observing the movement and activity of people near the escalator of a tube station. All these different people come to stand beside each other, walk by each other – a multitude of races, cultures, religious convictions, thoughts, experiences, wisdom. What really jars me, is the blatant disconnection between them; disconnected because we have become accustomed to living inwardly and indifferently. And humanity is no better for it.

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We’re All Human, Jade van der Mark

Why is it important to you to combat prejudice with your art?

Painting gave me a tool to share my opinions about life. I paint what I feel and think. It’s so important to say something as an artist. We’re living in a turbulent era, there is a lot going on! Why should I paint flowers? It’s important that my work sends a message to the audience. If my work starts conversations, I am satisfied.

 

How does your fashion background impact your work?

Fashion is a beautiful industry, that helps you develop a knack for form and an understanding of the expressive potential of fabrics. Working in fashion has taught me a great deal. It taught me about patience, particularly in the creative process. But fashion is a very indirect means of expression; from idea to sketch, sketch to pattern, pattern to creating or finishing everything. I wanted to work with a more direct medium to express my ideas, and painting suited that need. I started translating my paintings back into fabrics using different types of hand-made techniques.

The fashion world, in which I earned my bread and butter for period of time, is a hard and cold industry. It toughened me up, and I’m grateful for how that affected my ability to paint and seek a professional career in that. Needless to say, the envy and superficiality that I encountered in that world has also featured in my paintings since. In fact, I’m working on a series of paintings I’m calling “Judgement”. It will be released in the early months of 2020, during Fashion Week. It explores my views on the fashion industry and its impact on society.

1. Jade can der mark Artfully Dressed by Carla van de Puttelaar
Jade van der Mark Artfully Dressed by Carla van de Puttelaar. Image by Carla van de Puttelaar

How has moving to London affected your work?

London is an energetic, creative and engaging place, and is home to so many unique faces, unique stories, and of course, many beautiful art works and exciting galleries. I am an emotionally sensitive person, and London can be quite hard-hitting. I’m constantly absorbing my surroundings here, and never grow tired of it. I love walking through Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, the streets full of fancy shops and stuffed Ferrari cars. One moment I can be starting a conversation with a young homeless girl, but in another moment I might be mingling with dancers. The city is incredibly diverse, which makes the forms of human disconnection very apparent to me, too. I feel like this has affected the urgency with which I approach the subjects of my work.

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Jade van der Mark painting. Image by Barwerd van der Plas

What do you hope people take away from your work? 

Simply put, I hope they can suspend their presuppositions about life and the world, and open their hearts to a different dialogue or perspective. I hope that either my use of colour, the stories I try to tell, or the political or social messages that I embed in my work, will provoke a conversation between image and thought, and that viewers will be moved by it, and pass that newfound vulnerability on!

 

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

In the future I want to exhibit in more shows and to continue to develop as an artist. I am aiming to present a solo show in London next year. I’m also excited at the prospect of linking my work with Fashion Week come February.

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She is the founder of Gallery Girl - a London-based curatorial platform and website dedicated to modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Her work is primarily focused on supporting emerging female artists from the Middle East and the Caucasus. She has written for Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, Suitcase and Vice Arabia among other publications. Her exhibitions in London and Armenia have been featured in Vogue Arabia, The Art Newspaper, The Art Gorgeous and numerous other news outlets. Gallery Girl has also spoken in the UK, UAE and Belgium about the contemporary art scene in the MENA region, and is planning further events in London and Amman.

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