SEOS Interview

Mark Welland (SEOS Artist and Web Editor)


One of the great things about being part of the South East Open Studios is the opportunity to meet people. Over the years that I have taken part it has been a real pleasure to chat with visitors who express their interest with both the presentation and creation of the work. I’m a great believer in sharing the experiences and process of creating work, which for some may seem an altruistic view, but for me it’s at the heart of helping others connect to my work.

I enjoy working on different projects, each of which have their own theme, media and inspiration. My most recent project has focused on a single Oak Tree. A tree that used to sit in the middle of an open farmed field opposite my house. Normally I would carefully consider the scope, direction and implementation of the pieces I would be creating, but in this case I had no idea that it would even become a project.

I had looked out at the tree on an almost daily basis for ten years, when one morning I looked out to see it veiled in mist with a weak sun trying to break through. I grabbed my camera and boots, walked up the muddy hill and began photographing it from different angles. That act inspired me to consider what the tree would look like if I overlaid each of the photographs on top of each other. To combine my experience of the morning into a single image. I later considered that this approach was very much akin to the work of The Cubists. It had borrowed the idea of viewing a subject from different angles and manipulating or cropping to combine into an image. From that the idea of the Symmetree Oak project was born. It has for the last six years been my primary focus.

One morning three years ago I got a message from my neighbour saying that the oak tree had overnight been toppled by Storm Katie. This may have seemed the end of the project, but as it happened it was more like a new beginning. Having access to the oak wood has helped the Symmetree Oak project ‘branch out’ in many different directions and I would like to think that the challenges of those directions have helped develop my practice. I’ve learnt how to work with materials such as resin and wood, which are materials that I may have otherwise dismissed. Each has their own technical considerations (like how to stop dust settling on wet resin!), which drive me to work out the best methods for producing the work.

My day-to-day life in the studio involves balancing time between my work as a designer and that of an artist. It is in the main solitary, but as many of my colleagues will let you know I am constantly interacting either on Skype or Social Media. The online space that is now available to us has, I believe, transformed our opportunity for learning new skills. We are very lucky to be able to both learn from others and showcase our work via this space. That of course does not mean that it should replace the physical presence that most art truly demands.

I am very fortunate to have work shown by some very good local galleries and further afield in Bristol. I also currently have and have had, work in a number of London and local exhibitions. That single oak tree has certainly served me well and has made its way as far as collectors in the USA.

Many of my design work projects involve making websites for creatives, so I was very happy to help out in producing the new streamlined version of the South East Open Studios website. This, I hope, is a renewed and refreshed instigation that builds on the amazing work of the current and previous SEOS teams.