Exercise Three - Round Two // Mark Connolly

May 13 2020

Exercise One

Practice - What is giving your life meaning this week?

Two things that are really making this week work; The Alligator Hour by Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age [full of psychedelia, rock and roll and a little bit of RnB], and I'm really enjoying my current audiobook, Civilisation by Niall Ferguson.


What do you see as the most important and the most overlooked aspect of your work?

I believe once a work is complete, you as the artist lose autonomy over it, what the viewer projects onto a work is as important as what is woven through the work. The sources and considerations leading to a work are very particular to each work, but I don't think it’s essential for every reference to be read. I seek to load each work with several readings so there is always quite a range of responses to each work.


Do you think your work would be different if you knew no one was ever going to see it except you?

I think if you are totally isolated all sorts of unforeseen things can creep into the work, my work is definitely informed by those around me. My ability to visit the National Gallery regularly has a mammoth impact on what I make. Away from peers, certain influences and certainty that what I make would remain unseen would almost definitely lead to a completely different practice.


Describe your dream studio situation and what is the biggest thing you think you took for granted about working in your studio ?

I would love an open plan warehouse space with a table tennis table, a couple of mobile tables for palettes, a sofa and projector for a cinema and film club. I have temporarily vacated my studio in Marylebone and have set up a working space out of the city. I quite miss the commute to and from the studio and smoke breaks outside chatting to anyone else from the studio who is enjoying a hit of nicotine.


What is your best time of the day or night to work and why? 

Previously I was convinced being a night owl was the right fit, during my time at art school I would clock in at 2pm and clock out at 2am. I now enjoy being ready to start painting by 9:30 and if I am free from commitments, I would be happy to work until 10pm, seven is my usual departure time. I teach on a freelance basis, my schedule flits around lessons.


What is your studio staple snack?

[Outside of lockdown] My current indulgence is nipping out to Gino's, a proper old school cafe situated opposite Marylebone station where you can enjoy fried eggs and beans on toast for under four quid, quite the bargain for central London!


Tell us about something you saw on your one walk of the day

Today the sky was dominated by a huge cloud with an uncanny resemblance to the face of a baby, both terrifying and hilarious.


 If you had to live with one vice for the rest of your life what would it be?

A hand rolled cigarette accompanying an espresso doppio at any Italian airport is an absolute must and regardless of any ambition to abstain from tobacco. I have had long stretches of not smoking, I think Italian Airports will continue to be an exceptional allowance.


  Exercise Two

What is your favourite podcast?

In Our Time with Melvin Bragg is my all-time favourite listen, going through the archives is a treat. I also really enjoy: In Other Words, The Great Women Artists, Sound and Vision, Talk Art.


What is the best gift you've ever given or been given, vs the worst?

Alice Macdonald bought me a monograph of Emil Nolde which is gorgeous and one of my favourite presents ever. I recently bought someone the third season of Twin Peaks on Boxset, a classic I’d love that as a present present, it turns out this is a shaky foundation for present buying.


What is the best film you've ever seen vs the worst?

A few of my all-time favourites are Cinema Paradiso, La Dolce Vita, Bicycle Thieves, Brazil, Eyes Wide Shut, Midnight Cowboy and Coffee and Cigarettes. The worst film, ooph. I really couldn’t say for sure, but I was pretty disappointed by The Joker, I love Joaquin Phoenix and his performance was impeccable, but I felt the writing let him down.


What's the most inspirational place you've been?

I went to Rome for the first time in September with Joshua Bristow, a great friend who is an artist and architect. My ambition for the visit was to become acquainted with a serious volume of Caravaggio paintings, I didn’t manage to see every one of his paintings in the city, but I made a dent in the list. Judith beheading Holofernes, and David with the Head of Goliath were jaw droppingly impressive. The Palazzo Massimo houses a fresco, The Garden of Livia, Josh and I spent at least an hour marvelling in the flaking and peeling pigments, smeared and smudged over two thousand years of restoration and conservation, this fresco was quite prophetic of Henri Rousseau, millennia earlier. The mosaics in Palazzo Massimo are also phenomenal. This trip was right off the back of spending time in the Prado, Madrid. Finally experiencing Velasquez, Bosch, Goya, and a temporary exhibition of Fra Angelico, followed by ten days in Rome was close to overwhelming in information and inspiration.


Which era would you like to have experienced /experience again?

I wouldn’t mind going back in time to visit the studios of Eduard Vuillard, Felix Vallotton, Maurice Dennis and Pierre Bonnard. I spent Christmas in Paris with my mama, we walked all day all over the city. On Christmas Eve we spent the day in the Muse D’Orsay, it was an actual joke how dense the collection was. Manet, Courbet, Rousseau, Van Gogh, Gaugain, Redon were among the highlights but as exciting as these rooms were, I was bowled over by the collection of Vuillard, Vallotton and Bonnard.


What are three trivial things you are missing since lockdown and three things you are enjoying?

I miss going for a burger and milkshake with pals, usually Patty and Bun or Honest Burger.


I am enjoying gardening for the first time, a perfect escape and tanning opportunity.



I miss Russell and Chapple and Cornelison’s. I love canvas shopping and I recently started buying pigment and making my own paint alongside a selection of Old Holland, Michael Harding and Windsor and Newton Artist Quality.


I am enjoying watching films in the evenings and the occasional game of poker, seven card stud, rolling anaconda is fun.


I miss reduced Sushi in the evenings, Wong Kei – The best and funniest restaurant in Chinatown IMO, The Peckhamplex, and going to openings and bumping into pals.


I am enjoying having the time to find new music again!


What is your favourite hour of the day now? Are you aware of each hour/time more or less now?

I am less aware of time than I am in the city, I keep a jam-packed schedule and frequently squeeze the studio in before and after teaching. I love working in the morning with my first two coffees, and in the early evening with a cold alcohol-free beer and cigarette. I am making a conscious effort to read when I want, that as a rule brings a lot of freedom into the studio. Usually outside of lockdown, I can never really get the balance of reading and working, generally I’ll just paint all day and only read for half an hour in the evenings, whereas now I’m trying to spend at least a couple of hours reading and a few hours listening to an audiobook.


What have you learnt, what are you consuming, what are you now expert in - since lockdown?

The Last Dance, a Netflix Series on Michael Jordan and The Chicago Bulls and their hunt for a sixth championship. It’s fantastic viewing and gives great extensive insights to the juggling involved in maintaining focus on the task at hand whilst warding off the probing gaze of the media. I have been enjoying a lot of Japanese music from the seventies, two current favourite albums are Songs - Sugar Babe and Hosono House - Haroumi Hosono. I am reading a biography of Mao Tse Tung and listening to Civilisation by Niall Ferguson, a fast paced, broad western history. I have a new found love for the consumption of history, I’m hoping within a couple of years I’ll be some kind of historian.


Exercise Three

Please pick one of the three following prompts as a starting point to make some work using an A5 piece of paper/cloth/whatever you like. There is no restriction on media and feel free to try something different and new. 


- Draw the last dream that you remember

Pregnant Man

- Draw a self portrait as a favourite animal doing your favourite daily thing

Self Portrait as a Cat

- Draw the last text you received  

Watching TV on a phone in the bath