SURFACES & STRUCTURES
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, this month’s International Eye feature artist, Eric Mack’s striking work evokes a sense of explosive exuberance and an abundance of energy. Focusing his practice on art, music and geometry, his work, often reminiscent of deconstructivist architecture, exudes a dynamic quality, drawing in the viewer and engulfing them into a world of shapes, lines and colours. Having studied at the Atlanta College of Art, Mack has gone on to showcase his work throughout the US and in Europe, as well as seeing his pieces published in several journals and magazines. Notably, Mack’s compositions are also featured in government collections and he is currently planning a mural to be displayed in the heart of Atlanta. We had the opportunity to speak to Mack about his series Surfaces and Structures to learn more about the ideas behind this body of work and the interrelationship between the arts and sciences that play a crucial role.
Q | What was the motivation behind your series Surfaces and Structures and were there any influences for this body of work?
A | The motivation for Surfaces and Structures was brought on by my relocation to Europe in 2009. I was taken by the history and varied architectural styles that all converged as I explored the city of Munich. The compositions were mostly inspired by satellite views of planet earth. I found it fascinating to walk among classical and modern architectural styles that were not a part of my daily sights while stateside. As I travelled to various cities and countries, I took notes and gathered inspiration by all that I saw. Stone masonry styles found in Turkey, ancient Corsican stonework, renaissance designs in Belgium and preserved castles in Prague's city centre helped to form this series of artwork. The surface aspect comes from an experimentation with various materials to create the under paintings of this series. Powders, dyes, minerals and fibres are all combined to have a conversation with the architectural structures that were appropriated to create the painting compositions.
Q | Could you elaborate on how you create these dynamic and structural compositions? What materials and processes have you employed to produce your pieces?
A | There is a lot of cutting, pasting and painting when comes to making the work. When I was 15 years old, I learned the trade of barbering. I worked as barber for 21 years before stepping away. I began this skill trade in an era when bold geometric hairstyles and intricate designs were created to make a show of one’s personal style. Cartoon characters, names, numbers and symbols were all on display. Creating art with clippers on clients’ hair helped me become a better painter. The hair clipper lays horizontally just as a paintbrush does. Little did I know, even when I was cutting hair that I was still painting.
Around the same time, I also thought that I would be a disc jockey. I was buying records and mix boards in an attempt to learn the art of the mix. My uncle, Nathaniel, who still is a DJ, was very instrumental in forming my love for music in all its forms. Clearly, I never became a DJ, but I ended up making my music more so in a visual form. I gather imagery just as a music producer would gather musical samples to create a track in the studio. First, I create the composition with the under painting. Then, I use X-Acto blades to dissect the page using only needed parts. The pieces are then adhered and painted on with an acrylic based paint. Over the years, there have been a variety of materials that Ihave used and have never forgotten. Some of the standouts have been corrugated packing sheets, sand, peat moss, natural fibres, powdered spices and found papers/bags.
Q | What roles do geometry and architecture play when planning and constructing your 2D images? What is the significance in focusing this collection primarily around the use of quadrilaterals?
A | The use of geometry is important, because it is the basis from which the work is derived. I am inspired by the systems and patterns found throughout our visual world. Botanical, musical, technological and architectural patterns have constantly kept me in research mode. There are so many paths that these ‘rabbit holes’ can take you down. The more you learn, the more there is to learn.
The study of architecture aids my visualization of space, composition possibilities and thoughts surrounding textural experimentation. Although my work is very visually active, Ilove the simplicity of modern architecture and design elements used within these structures. From the start, I wanted to develop a way to share who I was as an artist and individual. I never wanted to do this in a literal way. I knew that there was a way that I could craft a visual narrative by simply using shape and form. The use of quadrilaterals probably comes from the statement with regards to modern architecture. Some of my most favourite structures are void of contour. Buildings with bold edges and hard line coincide with my love for technical drawing, Bauhaus design and typography.
Q | You have previously suggested that your works can be read as ‘visual sheet music’. Considering this description, coupled with the visually mathematical nature of your configurations, how do you aim to explore the relationship between art, geometry and music?
A | Art, geometry and rhythm are in harmony as I plan and create my work. It's called ‘visual sheet music’ because of the way the compositions are built in layers. Each bit of visual imagery represents a tone, colour, motion. Sound does this as well. The visual repetition of patterns, varied shapes, line and impressions are my way of living out my childhood dream of producing music. The space between these elements simulate the musical scale on which these ‘tones’ move up and down. Rhythm, space and geometry are all based in mathematics. This makes it easy for me to seamlessly synthesize the seemingly random visual influences found throughout my work. The imagery chosen is always used for its shape pattern and form.
Q | What can you tell us about your current artistic explorations and projects? Have you moved on from your thematic concerns in Surfaces and Structures?
A | My most recent project was a collaboration with thetalented, Berlin-based musician, Adam Longman Parker. He commissioned me to create the artwork for his first LP released by R & S Records on October 5th, 2019. The album is titled Colored and I have to say that this artwork is in my top five pieces that I have created to date. I was able to live vicariously through Adam's musical efforts. I truly felt like Iwas a player who was called into the studio to add my part and aid in the creation of the album. Surfaces and Structures can therefore be viewed as an amalgamation of art and maths, through Eric’s use of geometry to develop his intricate compositions. The work also acts as a reference to the technology of his youth through the correlation he draws between the creation of his works and his experiences with music.