Night of the Living Artist… Mark Rodgers.

PAGE 49 PEOPLE OF HULL 2

Emails that referenced both mis-heard Joy Division lyrics and the quotes of Oscar Wilde may have suggested that I might not be meeting an ordinary interviewee, but nothing could really have prepared me for Mark Rodgers.

I meet the artist late afternoon with the aim of finding out about his work, his motivations and influences. When we part several hours later, I’m dazed, drunk and debilitated having spent an evening drinking, talking, being mentored on Hull’s history, swapping stories about Mancunian musicians, watching local bands and having had a bizarre encounter with a boxer in a hair salon. Rodgers is intelligent and expressive. He chats easily about people, places, events and happenings but unfortunately, especially with alcohol involved, instead of a structured interview about his paintings we talk more about local history, beliefs, music and football. Before the beer kicks in I do establish that he prefers to paint from real life despite the obvious constraints this imposes.”

“Sometimes you might only get a couple of hours to work because once you’ve chosen a spot, with the elements to consider, you then appreciate that the weather, wind factors and light can soon change and that changes what you see and therefore paint. So, you have to be quite quick. You might never be able to get that particular location with the same look again. So, I work as long as I’m able to, to capture that scene. Working from a photograph doesn’t capture the real effect.“ We talk in a similar vein until the topic diverts to music.

“When I’m at home doing still life or painting from photographs, which I occasionally do when commissioned, I try to listen to music and try to put some of that feeling into my painting. I try to get that feeling you had when you were a kid and you’d finish school on a Friday and think tomorrow‘s Saturday and you knew you could go into town and buy a record. It’s that sense of feeling and freedom I try to get into the paintings.”

Randomly, he then shows me a letter he received from Peter Hook of Joy Division / New Order saying he is leaving the latter to form Revenge. We eventually get back onto the subject of art when he produces a portfolio of work he has accumulated in over six years he has lived in Hull. These include paintings of Story Street Health Centre, High Street, Queens Gardens, Boxer Tommy Coyne, The Hull City promotion team of 2007, St Mary’s Church, the River Hull (this fascinates him because, to him, it is the “Berlin Wall separating East and West Hull”) and the British Home Stores façade with its Latin logo which he happily translates for me. What about the pictures themselves though? They are almost like photographs. The sort of images I usually find pointless because they are boringly exact reproductions of what is in front of the artist. However, when looking longer there is not so much what I’d call freedom, but there’s definitely an excitement to his work and a slowly unleashed depth which engages the viewer.

To break from the drink we decide to carry on the interview as we walk from Old English Gentleman to Holy Trinity Church where local band Horse Guards Parade are playing that night. On the way Mark regales me with facts about the church but also explains what a really inspiring City Hull is. “Sometimes the Hull public don’t see it. I’ll set up my easel and people walk by wondering what it is that I’m looking to paint, but there’s a lot of great architecture here.”

Just as we are approaching Holy Trinity we pass Rosie Mason’s hairdressers in High Street. Luke Campbell is in there, after just being trimmed. Mark Knocks on the window, goes in, introduces himself, enquires about a painting commission, then wishes the boxer good luck for his fight the next day. Me? I think it is a bit surreal to find a boxer, chilling in a hairdresser’s the night before a big fight but there’s no stopping Mark who blurts out, “Your hair looks cool and I suppose it’s important to look good, whether punching or being punched…..” We leave Rosies for the gig and have a fine, but heavily inebriated, night. Later the loquacious artists’ girlfriend picks him up and I’m left to find my own way home with my head spinning. Crazy life innit?

Look at Mark Rodgers work on his web-site www.markrodgersgallery.com/ He is now involved in a project called Hull In Paint, organised in conjunction with the Civic Society and Heritage Open Days taking place in September. You can also see his work at the St Mary’s Church Arts Festival in July.