It’s been three years since local artist Ronald Markham has shown his work at Winchester Galleries. His last, Other Worldly Affairs, was an exhibition of his painting work, mostly acrylic on wood, featuring bright colours and geometric shapes contrasted by black negative space, and influenced heavily by the art of ancient cultures.
But Markham has since taken a break from painting, instead shifting focus to another, less formally recognized artform — collage.
His first ever exhibition of collage, Memories of Life on Earth, opens at Winchester’s Oak Bay gallery Sat., April 13.
“While I was in art school, I had the freedom to paint what I wanted to. I learned about art history — for example, if I wanted to paint a soup can, It would reference Andy Warhol, and I needed to be aware of that. It got very daunting. My teachers taught me that every brush stroke has meaning,” he says. “Now with collage, every piece or component is like a brush stroke. It’s possible to put meaning in each one, and that really fascinates me.”
Markham has been collaging his whole life, and says he’s always been interested in showing his work publicly, but was unsure of how it would be perceived.
“I’ve always kept it underground and focused on painting all these years,” says Markham. “But I believe my collage is much more personal than my paintings are.”
His fascination with collage began at a very young age. As a boy, Markham kept a collage wall in his bedroom, pasting images he found interesting onto his wall. When he ran out of space, he would crop the images back to make more room. Eventually, the images would engulf all the walls, and his ceiling. When he ran out of space, he would take them down and start again.
When he moved into his first apartment, he started the collage wall again.
“I decided that I would like to be able to keep them,” says Markham.
So he began searching out surfaces to collage — table tops, vinyl records and over framed paintings. He would use collage as a mental break between paintings.
“My painting was getting more and more complex,” he says. “I was trying to out-do myself with each one.”
“Collage is fun. It has a different approach. It’s like playing a game, and each one has its own set of rules that become apparent once you get started.”
Now Markham is painting as a break from collage.
“Some of them take months to do. I get buried in millions of pieces,” he says. “I reaproached collage with a painting point of view, and this collection is what I ended up with.”
The 20-piece collection for Memories of Life on Earth has a similar esthetic to his painting work— bright colours and geometric shapes contrasted by 50 per cent negative space, and strongly influenced by ancient cultures. But they are also influenced by pop culture — contrasted by a strong affinity for nostalgia.
The materials he uses range from retro vinyl record sleeves and ’50s matchbook covers to modern candy wrappers from countries as far away as Japan. He also uses wallpaper, scrapbooking paper (which is archival) and old text books in his art.
Aside from acid-free paper glue, the only other tools he uses are his hands.
Markham spends as much time collecting materials as he does in the act of making art.
“I believe in using original materials as opposed to reproductions,” says Markham. “There’s a sacredness … it’s a ritualistic process. That’s always been very important to me.
“It’s very instinctual. I’ll find something and think it’s interesting, but only months later would I determine how I will use it.”
All originals are for sale at the exhibition. Markham plans to make prints of each work. M
Memories of Life on Earth
Opens Sat., April 13
(2260 Oak Bay)
Reception from 1-5pm
featuring harpist Elizabeth Ely
and Pianist Brooke Maxwell