ELENA & MARK ERICKSON
Looking at the paintings of Mark and Elena Erickson is an experience in color and movement. Bright areas of pigment slash across a brilliant background or float above expansive landscapes. The viewer is gripped by an immediate and powerful response to the sheer explosion of color and the substance of the paint itself. In their relationship, both in marriage and their lives working together in the studio is a true collaborative spirit, each helping the other in thought and deed. In early 2020 the times were right for their collaborations to awaken with new enthusiasm. Steady work in the studio commenced and ‘The Markella Project’ was born. Painting, collages and writing/poetry were undertaken, like none other before, the year brought on an unique concentration and a sense of discovery.
Mark Erickson is an American painter. Elena Erickson is a Swiss painter. Both live and work in California along the Pacific Ocean. The appeal of their paintings are partly due to its spontaneous unchecked expression of energy. The surface is very sensual. You get the feeling of both artist’s physical involvement with the canvas in the creative process where there is always an atmosphere beneath the surface of markings and messages or figures in the design.
In some of the Mercury Series paintings, our imagination must reconstruct the painting from what is only hinted at. Looking at these works is like discovering Pompeii beneath ancient lava as though the paint was pulled from the canvas to reveal its underside. These paintings are a fine example of the archeological approach to contemporary painting.
Mark and Elena’s work originated in theory from Abstract Expressionism, where in the mid 20th Century, a groundbreaking revolution in American art became a rich tradition and point of departure for Mark and Elena’s work. Influences of painters of the 1950s are evident in their work, yet the direction is their own, clearly felt as the paintings breathe the fresh air of contemporary thought.
Mark’s paintings have an urban energy with whirring colors flying across a brightly lit metropolis. The shapes, so perfectly formed and propel the pigment off the surface of the canvas. Erickson, transforming the flat plane, breathes life and depth into his paintings and pulls the viewer into the experience. He does this by modulating color against color and form against form in such a way that you feel you can travel within the work. It is easy to see his quick progression in experimenting with differing aesthetic issues and emerging with his own very original and individual voice.
Elena’s initial direction and interest in art making originated in analog photography. Carrying her Canon A-1 film camera everywhere she went and setting up a darkroom in her apartment bathroom in Basel, Switzerland. Moving later to the San Francisco Bay Area in California, Elena started studying abstract painting with Mark. That enriching background enabled her to find her own style of painting. Through trial and error, the painting techniques developed quickly until she found something that was her. Elena’s paintings revolve around color, design, fabric and nature.
Elena often starts a new creation with small color studies on paper. Their assistance in her larger paintings on canvas is vast. Exploring colors, hues and shades and how they affect each other is at the core of her approach to painting. Color theory is an important part of the process in creating these large canvases. As Elena states: “Brush work is essential, the details are carefully shaped and manipulated as I proceed. It takes steady hands and an awareness and sensitivity for the desired lines I seek.” Playing with reflections, mixing paint and exploring colors, her goal is to attempt and capture a static energy in her canvases.
Working together in their studios in their studios in Oakland and Venice, California, the work space becomes a source of inspiration. On a beautiful day sunlight pours through a twenty foot wall of windows, enabling experimentation with light and paint, casting shadows and silhouettes on the walls.