Mark Manders

The exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the artist’s practice, consisting of installations, sculptures, works on paper and drawings.

Artists Mark Manders
Date 03.09.2022 - 15.10.2022
Venue Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
All images Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp. Photo: Peter Cox

Mark Manders has been working on his ‘Self-Portrait as a Building’ since 1986. His oeuvre, which he regards as a fictitious building, consists of separate rooms and floors whose size and shape cannot be determined with precision. The building is permanently under construction and at the same time always complete in the state it is in at the moment. Manders strives for timelessness and universality by making use of archetypal forms and recognizable materials such as clay, steel and wood. This makes it impossible to place his works in a chronological order on the basis of visual characteristics.

The artist’s work straddles the border between truth and fiction. Wood and clay, but also pencils or cups, often turn out to be imitations in bronze or epoxy. His androgynous heads seem unfinished, as if the artist had abandoned them halfway through the creation process. At the same time, they seem to have always existed.

Room with All Existing Words further explores the grey zone between reality and illusion. Above the entrance to the room, the artist has attached his Notional Newspapers. These self-made dailies contain all the words of the English language, each word occurring only once and placed in a random order. Out of all these words, he has chosen to dedicate a monumental work to the obscure word ‘skiapode’ (Greek for ‘shadow foot’), a fantastic creature that uses its giant foot to shelter from the sun. Manders was inspired by the few known images of this mythical figure, which is said to have appeared repeatedly throughout history. What fascinates the artist is that people once believed that skiapodes really existed, but also that the human mind is capable of inventing such creatures. For this installation, Manders created numerous skiapode images. They each show a strong affinity with existing works of art from various art-historical periods, thereby blurring the distinction between fact and fiction even further.
The myth is further elaborated on a Wikipedia page that was written by the artist and which can be accessed via a QR code. The far-reaching meticulousness of the connections that the skiapode myth is said to have in history also raises the question of whether this mythical creature really existed.
For a long time, Manders only allowed those colours to be used in his work that were specific to the materials. The green-blue tints that dominate this show were chosen by the artist because they cannot be defined by language. They often appear in combination with the self-made newspapers that contain all the words of the English language, such as Cloud Study (with All Existing Words) and Composition with Two Colours. He has also used these colours to create landscapes such as Landscape Fragment, Landscape with Typewriter and various night scenes. The theme of the landscape is further elaborated in the sculpture in the modernist style Cloud Study (with All Existing Words) and in Field Fragment, in which he brings together colours of the sky at different times of the day in a composition that is, literally, precisely balanced.
Manders is a poet who composes with images rather than words. In Short Sentence and Short Sentence with All Existing Words, the artist builds sentences by placing different objects next to each other and connecting them. Finished Sentence resembles a machine that generates ideas according to its own logic and pronounces them in a language of tea bags. It is up to the viewer to interpret these sentences and give them meaning.
Landscape with Falling Cups and Girl with Falling Earring are conceived by Manders as three-dimensional paintings that capture an almost intangible moment in time. The image of a falling object does not exist as such in reality, but it can be thought and therefore represented. By capturing these thoughts in images that in turn generate new thoughts and images, he attempts to gain insight into the fascinating way in which the human mind functions.

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