For Mark Sharp, abstraction involves a constantly shifting set of variables that have become over time a rich visual world of form and feeling. The paintings are inspired by real landscape elements, but sky and land are transformed into purely pictorial experiences of space and form. Rather than transcriptions, these paintings invite the viewer into compelling encounters with bold shapes and vigorous gestures.
Sharp’s paintings are a complex of overlapping forms that morph and marry, jostle and dissolve. At times, the irregular arcs and rounded rectangles contend for autonomy or dominance. But no shape is separate; all are intimately related in a dynamic matrix. Forms develop intuitively, with blocky ovoids slowly growing, becoming hidden, and then emerging. The viewer visually travels through the painting, discovering a composition that is essentially organic in nature.
In keeping with their inspiration in the landscape, these paintings describe a variety of spatial situations. In some works, the viewer seems to be looking down over piled-up forms, and out into an expanse of sky. In others, we seem to hover above boulders that lie beneath shallow water. In the latter case, the paintings become dream-like and ephemeral, with softened forms melting into an atmosphere of light. Throughout this work is a direct painterly energy, embodied in the strong brush strokes that define forms and in the layering of glazes that creates a sense of spatial depth. Color directs our attention to selected linear structures and highlight specific shapes like light on the tesserae of a mosaic.
While Sharp’s forms develop from painting to painting, each work has its own emotional valence, ranging from melancholy, to anxious, to aggressive. Much depends on the artist’s hand as it traces its personal geometry, and loses and reasserts its sense of order. Simultaneously, the complex of colors act like of scale of feelings from which the artist can improvise his almost musical compositions. In earlier works, tints of purer color plays off the dominant range of neutrals, like the light of the setting sun on rocks at dusk. Recently a powerful, new sense of inner structure has emerged. The forms have become more assertive, the network of divisions darker, and the color brighter and more luminous. With the new clarity of these works is a new emotive key: joyous, like the ringing of a bell.
– John Mendelsohn
Art critic and writer for ArtNet and Internet magazine.