Art encourages conversation and debate. The works of Mark Tansey provide a discussion on both the meaning and history of the medium through metaphors. Each painting inspires examination and contemplation. Unusual and witty, these paintings are rich with both meaning and visual appeal.
Each work is monochromatic in color and seem like a faded photograph. There is an old fashioned and dreamlike quality to these paintings. The realism of the works is at odds with the surrealism of the subject, creating both tension and further ambiguity. This striking affect alone make these works stand out. However, there is much more than aesthetics in a Tansey painting.
Mark Tansey found a clever solution for finding inspiration. He crafted a wooden wheel with three inner circles with phrases and concepts inscribed on each. The Color Wheel can randomly produce 5,832,000 unique combinations. Although in recent years he has moved away from his Color Wheel, this method served as a foundation for many of his pieces for years.
Growing up with an art historian for a father, Tansey was accustomed to critique of the art world. In 1980, he produced A Short History of Modernist Painting. Each of the 52 panels detail different Modern art approaches. On one such panel is one of a woman washing a window. It’s a simplistic image that carries a lot of weight. It represents both artists seeking to create realistic representations of their surroundings and also how each new artistic movement create a fresh start for different generations of artists.
This commentary on art was a theme in many of Tansey’s works. The Innocent Eye Test is a depiction of how we look at art. A cow is presented with a painting, Potter’s The Young Bull. The heifer stares into the eyes of the cow in the painting while a group of scientists look on, waiting for a reaction. Art as a reflection of ourselves is a common theme in the art world. This work is unique in that it showcases art, the viewer, and the examination of the relationship between the two.
Overall, the goal of Mark Tansey’s paintings is to examine “how different realities interact with each other.” Art is not to showcase reality, but to provide a different point of view. There is thoughtful discourse in each brushstroke and a philosophical question posed to the viewer.