Born and raised in Africa, Zimbabwean painter Marc Standing is inspired by the spirit of life and his native continent. The reference for his practice is the unearthing of identity, self-discovery and personal expression.
Standing’s works are genuinely complex in appearance as in creation. As he deliberately works on multiple pieces simultaneously. He employs his variant of Psychic Automatism to avoid conscious intervention. His immersive process consciously absorbs him during his practice as the kinetics of anthropology, biology and the dilemma of existence direct his brush.
I always work on multiple pieces simultaneously, so each body of work becomes a stream of consciousness made at a unique time and place in my life.
Exploiting this immersive approach, he nurtures unique and organic compositions that bear his story amid his native heritage and culture. We managed to catch up with the painter during his exhibition at Grove Square Galleries titled “The Whispering Tongues”, which showcases his new series of mixed media paintings.
The Whispering Tongues is on from 24 June – 6 August 2021 At Grove Square Galleries 156 New Cavendish Street London W1W 6YW
Q: For those who don’t know you, can you please introduce yourself?
A: My name is Marc Standing. I was born in Zimbabwe and left the country in my early twenties when my family immigrated to Australia. I followed them over there before spending time in Lesotho and Geneva. After a five-year stint in Australia, I moved to Hong Kong before settling in London 3 years ago. I am a painter and obtained my painting degree from the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Q: What is your inspiration, and why do you do what you do?
A: Since I was five years old, I knew I wanted to be an artist. There was never any other question about that, and I was determined to follow that dream. Many things inspire me, predominantly Africa, the place I was born and raised. When I first began painting I would do classes in a studio in Harare that was filled with taxidermy, dried plants, shells, coral, horns, pods, bones, and skulls.
These objects to this day never cease to inspire me, as well as mythologies, mysticism, masquerade, patterns, colour, masks and textiles. I also find travelling, seeing the world and experiencing and learning from different cultures awe-inspiring.
Q: Can you tell us about your creative process?
A: Well, my process aligns with the surrealist’s method of psychic automatism, which is a very spontaneous and subconscious way of working.
I never know what I am going to paint until the process begins. The painting starts to dictate to me what needs to happen. I also studied printmaking at art school, so my practice is also very much about mark-making. I always work on multiple pieces simultaneously, so each body of work becomes a stream of consciousness made at a unique time and place in my life.
Q: Your work has a running theme featuring identity, self-discovery and personal expression. Can you tell us the motivation behind this?
A: I guess at five years old, I knew I wanted to be an artist but also knew I was gay, although I didn’t quite understand what that meant at that age. I just knew I was more into princes than princesses. I had a massive crush on Flash Gordon. Lol!
I knew I was different from most other kids, and this wasn’t the easiest thing to deal with in a very masculine African environment. On top of that, there was the stigma of AIDS linked to homosexuality. In my early 20’s I came out at art school where I finally met people like me, although it was still petrifying.
I think my sexuality and being a minority are the roots of where the above themes stem from. I am also Jewish, so not very easy to put in a neat ‘box’. My life has also been quite nomadic, so questioning the ideologies of place, identity, and home has always been an integral part of my life experience so far.
Q: What was the first piece of Art you created that cemented your path as an artist?
A: When I began classes in the studio I mentioned above; I was thirteen. Helen Lieros, who became one of my future mentors, didn’t take on students as young as me, so she asked me to do a painting of whatever I wanted to do. There was a taxidermy crow, and I painted that, superimposing three crows on a green and yellow background. She said I could stay, and that was it.
Q: In your current exhibition titled “The Whispering Tongues” with Grove Square Galleries. What can we expect to see?
A: Hopefully, something you haven’t seen before! This show is special to me as I had the opportunity to create this body of work in Kenya at the beginning of the year. I had not returned to Africa for a long time, and the experience of being out there and painting cemented how ingrained Africa is in my blood and how I have so missed it. It felt like coming home. The title refers to the hushed age-old secrets of sacredness and storytelling.
Q: In your opinion, what is the lasting impact of Art?
A: That’s quite a profound question. Art can have a massive impact in furthering difficult discussions and perhaps even help to determine conclusions. It is an avenue of communication. Art has been around from the dawn of time, and it’s not going to go anywhere. Artists will always need to create, and they will. The imagination is a powerful force and seems to be something younger generations are losing touch with, which is not good.
Q: What’s next for you as an artist?
A: I plan to get back into the studio and take some time to play and explore.
Q: Lastly, what does Art mean to you?
A: Art is meditative, it’s healing, it can cross boundaries and languages, and it can be beautiful and terrifying. In our western culture, it’s completely underestimated, and that mindset needs to change. As artists, we think outside the box, which is a very relevant skill to have in our modern world. I live for my art; it’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle.