www.markodonovan.co.za

Biography:



When Mark qualified as an Engineer in his early twenties he very quickly realised that he was not cut out to pursue a career as a conventional Engineer. It was a controversial time in the history of South Africa and he was restless and rebellious. He studied fine art by correspondence. At some later point he got involved in a workshop conducted by Dutch group Dogtroep and was immediately drawn to their working method and results. He worked with Dogtroep on a number of occasions on projects in South Africa and then later with Warner & Consorten (Warner von Wely was a founder of Dogtroep) in the Netherlands and on European tour. On returning home he founded the group ‘Odd Enjinears’ which he co-directed with Dutch working partner Geert Jonkers. They made site specific productions with curious technology and invented musical instruments. They reinvented theatre using no words with a unique blend of sculpture, music, machines and performance; making highly successful shows in for example a BlackSmith Forge (Cape Town), an old power station (Grahamstown), or, in a dungeon in a castle (Cape Town). For each project they would put together an inventive team, responding to the particular opportunities of each location and approaching technology with the creative instincts of artists. Odd Enjinears played all the major festivals in South Africa, did a range of projects in Cape Town and toured in Holland in 2001; taking their enthusiastic (and cult like) audience on an adventurous journey of the imagination.


Mark went on to build a wide range of public art works, private commissions and works for theatre; music machines, water driven ‘sculptures’ and children’s play structures. Sculpture in motion is the general link and since motion causes sound, repeated motion is music. Mark has repeatedly returned to the theme of an orchestra of invented musical "machines". His works have been and are in many places around Cape Town including a work outside the Iziko National Gallery in Government Gardens, in the Old Biscuit Mill, Salt River; Greenmarket Square; on Pepper Street in Cape Town; in Mitchelsplain Town Centre and a number of works in Knysna’s Woodmilllane Centre. He has also been involved in international ‘social intervention projects’ as a specialist member of the team (for Dutch groups Cascoland – in South Africa and Holland, and for Theater Embassy in Peru).


More recently he oversaw the workshops, skills development and then making of all the artworks for a new hospital in Khayelitsha near Cape Town (completed in 2012) and then took on the directorship of Greatmore Studios in Woodstock; an arts hub of support for career development in the arts.


In 2017 Mark returned to his own work with determined relief. He currently juxtaposes periods of intense focus with working on the movies in set construction and special effects.


Artists’ Statement

March 2018


I have not painted since those early restless years when I rebelled against social norms and lived remotely. There were times when I would make a painting or a painted life size figure just to destroy it (and put to rest something which had been eating at me). Back then I loved painting: My works were passionate and expressionistic. I approached my work ritualistically and believed in its deeper purpose. I learned to paint by moonlight because the choice of colour is overridden by its tone. It was during this highly experimental phase that I started painting on textiles applied to board, a practice I have pursued to date with astounding results.


Finally now I am getting back into my own work, developing ideas in painting and sculpture and looking to really hone my skills in areas of focus. I look at the works of masters which speak to me. I look around in my daily life and respond to certain things: Why do I have an urge to paint that ? I don’t need to answer this question; I prefer to trust my instinct and just go with the urge.


I started where I left off those many years ago; drawn to the ritual, drawn to layering: I start with African wax print on board - bright patterned colour - and then work with pigments sourced in South Africa from the earth. I seldom ‘paint’. I PUT the mark down….. crass and messy. I am aware that we humans can be so boorishly insensitive when we make our marks upon our planet and in our living. I want my work to be approached from a distance, in which the whole is seen to be exquisite, and then the closer one gets, the more brutal and neglectful the detail is seen to be. All landscape has such history.


I want my work to be undoubtedly African.