July 2019

Inspired by artists including Turner, Frank Auerbach and Cy Twombly, contemporary artist Mark Stopforth's body of work embodies the raw beauty of nature.

Focusing on the depiction of Moors, Fens, Fells and Estuaries, Mark subtly captures the complexity of the landscape through oil, pencil and charcoal. We caught up with Mark to find out more about his inspirations and why he turned his hand to landscape painting. 

Tell us how is all began. Where did you grow up and do you think this influenced your decision to become an artist?

I was brought up in the Fens of East Anglia which is a very flat landscape on the Eastern side of Britain. It is a land that was reclaimed from the sea and then cultivated. So my childhood was spent under huge, never ending skies that filled my head. This landscape has never left me and is something I still pursue in my work.

Your work is focused on the untamed and wild landscapes of Britain. Have you always been a landscape artist or have you ever dabbled in portraiture or other mediums?

I trained firstly as a ceramicist and then I studied for a Fine Art degree at Cardiff University where I specialised within sculpture and installation art. Upon graduating I began to paint and draw more and this became my mainstay. I was fortunate enough to be exhibited at the RWA in their Autumn Open Exhibition about twenty years ago and this gave me the confidence to go on and paint more. I regards myself as an “English landscape artist” working very much in the tradition of Turner and Constable but with a language inspired by the art of Cy Twombly and Frank Auerbach where the medium of oil takes over and is as important as the subject matter itself.

What materials do you like working in? Why do you choose these particular materials?

I like to work in oils but ragged down with washes of white spirit which allows the colours to bleed and soak into the paper or card which are my preferred surfaces. I then overlay with charcoal, chalk dust and pencil. Drawing is still at the heart of everything I do, a painting starts with pencil and ends with pencil.

How would you define your style?

My style is fluid, energetic and of the moment. I like to lose myself in the language of action, accident and nuance. I’m always looking for the ephemeral, the dance of light or a flicker in time which works and is held all for a fleeting moment. Painting and poetry to me are very close bedfellows.

Do you paint en plein air or do you do studies out in the landscape and then work back in the studio?

All my paintings are a memory of being in a place and time where my emotions are caught in the fall of light on a hillside or in a snowstorm at sea. My experience of a landscape could be of the fens, a mountain range or roadside verge, each holds their own sense of the sublime of something bigger than me which is very important, especially when making or looking at Art.

Which artists throughout history have influenced and why?

Those artists that have influenced me are many and varied, and they include: Turner, Howard Hodgkin, Francis Bacon, Hokusai, Frank Auerbach, Cy Twombly, Winifred Nicholson, and Ad Reinhardt. These are the tip of the iceberg! Authors and writers I read include Robert MacFarlane, Ted Hughes, Simon Armitage, Nan Shepherd, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Each of these artists and authors and those not mentioned are concerned either with nature, landscape or the fleeting and hard to hold moments of now.

Where you now based and what are you currently working on?

I work in Stroud, Gloucestershire and I’m currently collecting work together for a show in January, strangely I have been drawn to the flower paintings of Cy Twombly which I’m having a stab at myself. The landscapes always remain a growing concern. 

Where do you go for complete silence and concentration?

On a bench on top of Selsley Common overlooking the Severn Vale, listening to skylarks

Have you found that the landscape has evolved and developed over the years?

Landscape painting has changed and developed immeasurably since the classical ideas of Poussin and Claude. Cy Twombly is my go to artist, I love his gestural mark making which on a grand scale speaks across the ages. His is more a landscape of the mind, of the poetical, of the moment and it is this I wish to explore and experience in my own work, like a glacier breaking on some far and distant horizon.

All imagery via Mark Stopforth
"Snowstorm Over Water" - Oil, pencil and chalk
"First Light" - Oil, pencil and chalk
"The Sea III" - Oil, pencil and chalk
"Untitled" - Oil, pencil and chalk
"Storm Horizon VI" - Oil, pencil and chalk