by Neil McLeod | Artist, Writer, and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Falmouth University

Thoughts linger. Hesitations flicker.

Inscriptions to a lesser god. A god of the forgotten footpath, of the newly made track, a redundant circle. Ordered alchemy, wet underfoot. A stile, a glum well, a cobbled wall stretching across the moorland. A pitfall, a digression, an impasse. A rise, a vista, a departure.

The ground is plotted, quadrangles of history remapped across curling pages while memories unfold. A train is set in motion, a recollection carried to a new destination, or a return, back to the waiting platform. Home.

Peculiarities mingle, half hidden. Draw them out. Draw. Sing for your supper. Cast a weather eye across the farmlands. Suspended stained glass colours the gaze. Beyond, the single ploughed field among the heathen. The grass is still, but a storm is brewing. Click of the kettle, click of the laptop, the barometer registers the shift, the reverse pressure, the wider world distraction.

Chores wait, the guitar waits, time doesn't. Turn back to the primordial, the gouging of symbols, meaningful and meaningless as the ancients; cover the roof with a weather map, a mirror of the paint crust floor beneath.

Distillation and expansion

A play, a commotion. Hills sweep under the brush, a tunnel escapes, streams decant, a change is spread, a trouble is poured. Motifs half recalled float on the surface, are the surface, but not the event. Between and beneath are the narratives, the occasional whisper of a mystic's dna. Metaphors drift like ice floes, metaphors of metaphors. Aerial maps of molecular activity, the height indeterminate. An inroad for the observer, an outroad, too. A passing place, a landmark thirty feet tall. A constituent element frozen this moment, thawed the next, its past submerged but still visible. Half figuration loiters in the shadows, a distance, a proximity. Exactness is spilt.

Horizonless referents, tilting environments. Clouds coalesce beneath the stretcher, surfacing only when the plane is reorientated. Gravity is absent, but the bye-laws of physics, of abstraction, abound. Principles are reconstituted, traces impressed. Re-fused shards of pastoral romance.

Depth is given, depth is removed.
A plumb line.
Crossing over a surface, a void. The canvas is an unfenced plot.

Everything is movement

The gesture is witness to the physical, the assimilation through action. It testifies to the glimpse, the movement of the mind. Poetry precise care broken by fissures of graffiti. The shaman sweeps away evil spirits, his spirit broom pushing paint across the intimate landscape. A brush on a stick; an archaeological gift for the future.

Everything is breath

Words, like shy dogs, lurk in the background, wanting to approach, to be uttered, to be recited, repeated, resung, restrung.

A line is chanted, echoed through history.
A line is drawn. A breath taken.
A line meant for healing.

Everything is time

Tempo shifts its weight from one leg to the other. Restlessness is inevitable and essential. Circles dervish and swarm across the surface, a rhythmical pacing, a temporal reconfiguration, between the paintings, across the walls.

Everything is the medium

The medium is the passage. Conditions are mixed on the palette, the deep of seasons crash, withdraw. Abandoned thoughts are rekindled through the illuminate. Shapes sheer, evaporate, recondense. A precipitation of form.

An impulse is earthed.




Openings is an exciting breakthrough exhibition for Mark Surridge, representing a clear development of his vision through a dramatic questioning of his creative approach.

Since 1998 Surridge had been making paintings which took primary inspiration from the elemental nature of the landscape, effectively capturing its might and power with romantic zeal. These 'matter' paintings were adventurous, using combinations of paint, sand, sawdust, soil and carborundum to achieve an impasto surface, emphasising and enforcing the physicality of the forces that he aimed to evoke. This 'flow' of work concluded in 2006 with a period of what Surridge describes as 'reflection and reassessment'.

despite being an intrepid painter, Surridge felt that a greater 'freeing up' of the process was increasingly important. investigations ensued, with greater internal examination being added to the external interrogation that had gone before. He adopted methods of psychic automatism and listening to the subconscious through Freudian experiments, with the aim of developing the parameters in which the work was operating, placing an open 'self' as part of the equation within the work.

The physical and formal element was thus finally developed: Constraints had been shed. Surridge sees himself as a painter, but what exactly can a painter be when free to roam? at what point does painting become sculpture and in turn, at which point does this move in to installation? a journey and outcome that we get to witness, where one form of expression shifts and informs the other. This honest, unhindered experience is immersive, exciting and liberating - for all involved.

Surridge states, "My work is about trying to understand who we are, where we come from and where we are going", this questioning is alive and clearly evident in this multi sensory collection. Time spent with these pieces, individually and collectively, provides us with brief openings into a place of wholeness. Surridge's aim has been to share "an appreciation of the natural world and losing 'the self' or 'the ego': to be invisible in the subject matter, but remembered in the work". I believe that these goals have been emphatically achieved. But rather than providing big elusive answers, we are reminded of how infinite the questions are. Observe with awe and wonderment, there remains so much more to say and see.

Joseph Clarke, Director, Millennium Gallery, 2010.


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In Britain we have a particular relationship with the landscape, feeling we have an affinity with the natural world and that it forms an aspect of our identity. As a nation we are passionate and protective about it. We have a tendency to idolise it and are comfortable about seeing the landscape as metaphors for states of mind, or as an idyll, a source for poetry and literary visions as well as images of the Sublime.

Mark Surridge's paintings have a lyrical and ephemeral quality of light and form that immediately engages the eye. The Cornish landscape and it's weather systems is one subject of interest, but this is only a starting point. Surridge studies the landscape not for it's own sake as a retrogressive representational source, but sets out to look beyond it to elicit a simplification of form which results in the creation of a painting which lives as an object in it's own right.

Surridge revels in the tone, texture and improvisational malleability of paint and carborundum, searching for the principles of emptiness, calm, simplicity and chance in order to establish an inner tension in his compositions.

His arresting and thickly impastoed surfaces are sparsely marked. The simplest marks, loops and lines often offer a catalogue of bravura signs - the scratch, smudge and splotch - in order to explore spaces that suggest often unidentifiable figurative forms in relation to the landscape.

Most of his paintings have the look of abstract structures, an immediate reminder of the Abstract Expressionist's experimentation with form. But the forms and tones sometimes meld together to suggest an aspect of landscape such as light reflection off a wet surface and natures detritus as in Storm Glow, 2004. In this way, Surridge's work offers our imagination space to rest as his paintings hover somewhere between abstract and figuration.

Susan Daniel-McElroy, Former Director, Tate St Ives, 2007.


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Mark Surridge is a painter who to some extent works in a very English tradition, landscape, which is the base on which he says he is "grappling with abstract relationships between shapes, colours and textures on the picture plane". At first glance his work looks abstract and the results have their own very personal syntax, punctuation and orchestration. They become almost performances of landscape rather than a celebratory record.

In notes he made 2 years ago, he refers to train journeys from home in Cornwall to London and back, and he says how many of his paintings have been affected by memories of views seen from the train and his awareness of the 'frame' of the windows. Of all modes of transport, the train can lull the passenger into a state that might be called translucence of mind. As the train picks up speed, the vistas become fleeting and objects close by seem to fly, just as the paint appears to be flying in some of Surridge's pictures. The titles of individual works in the show bear this out - Freedom Flicker, Field Change, Physical Drift, Land Wind.

Further into his notes, he says he starts with landscapes. "I enter into it with a sketch book, I draw, take notes. I look for contrasts, strong shapes, sometimes making written notes." Hi walks in the Cornish countryside are part of his daily routine.

Surridge works to produce paintings as a series, and he says that the residue of information and sensations keeps trying to come through from a previous series. There is certainly continuity in his work but, underlying all, development, exploration and risk are evident.

Surridges's paint is arresting. Broad one-stroke brushmarks make one think of Ivon Hitchens who also caught aspects of landscape on the wing! Random spatters of thick pigment and scratchings add to an overall orchestration. The viewer might also sense a manifestation of speed, rushes of air. This is not to suggest that the paintings have been done quickly. They are hard-wrought pieces suggesting a sensibility as sensitive as litmus paper to the moods of his chosen terrain.

Liam Hanley, Artist & Writer, 2003.


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