portrait of a painter
Talented Thirroul artist India Mark is being applauded on a national STAGE!
India Mark is a name you need to remember! At just 24 years old, the Thirroul-based figurative painter has received much prestigious recognition since first picking up the brush. On May 3, she was named as a finalist in Australia’s most prominent portrait award, The Archibald Prize… for the second time in her short career! She was also named a finalist in 2016, a finalist for the 2017 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, she’s had two paintings included in the archival collection of the National Art School, and is part of a stable of artists connected to The Egg & Dart gallery in Thirroul.
India’s entry into this year’s Archibald Prize, titled Candy, is a portrait of her friend, Sarah – a film student and sex worker, who uses social media to advocate for sex worker rights and articulate issues that impact the safety of those within the industry.
“I approached Sarah because I admire her ability to break down complicated social constructs that promote prejudice, in a way that is relatable,” India says. “Gaining entry as a finalist this year is an important moment for both Sarah and myself – my painting is the first ever portrait of a sex worker to be accepted into the Archibald Prize.”
Taking inspiration from traditional tonal painting methodologies, India’s portrait work is intimate and engaging. “I've always been drawn to artists that make work about things that exist beyond the world of art,” she says. “Sarah’s painting challenged me to do just that, and I’m very happy with the result.”
The beautifully moving result has culminated in India’s work being proudly displayed on the spectacular walls of the Art Gallery of NSW! It is a moment of validation for the young artist’s practice, and as she says, “such a positive experience.” It’s clear this moment is something India’s been working towards her entire life – art is her first love.
“Growing up I spent hours drawing in watercolours,” she says. “When I was in Year 7, I started reading about early renaissance painting. Then when I was 16, I did a student exchange to Italy and saw those paintings in the flesh – my mind was blown.”
Since then, India’s artistic passion well and truly took hold. She completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts, where she learnt to paint with her now preferred tool of choice, oils. She then went on to do a Master of Fine Arts at the National Art School, completing pieces that referenced 17th century Dutch tronie painting.
“For the first few years of my undergraduate degree, I found navigating the material challenging, but oils lend themselves so well to figurative painting, so I persisted,” India says. “I’ve always had a preference for traditional painting genres, including portraiture and still-life.”
It is her portraiture work that has afforded her the great honour of being named a finalist in the Archibald Prize… twice! In 2016, her submission of musician Dane Taylor – the lead singer of experimental pop band Shining Bird from Austinmer – titled Day at the gallery with Dane Taylor won praise for its striking simplicity and ode to figurative classicism.
India’s works have also been exhibited and sold at The Egg & Dart Gallery in Thirroul – the contemporary artspace, which supports a talented hub of artists and is doing great things for the local creative community.
“Community is critical for artists,” India agrees. “We spend many solitary hours working. A place like the Egg & Dart not only provides artists with a place to exhibit and sell work, but also a support network of like-minded kin.”
Recently, she’s also started hosting life drawing sessions at Frank’s Wild Years – the fantastic record store/music venue/bar in Thirroul. “I don’t teach technique so it’s not a class,” India says. “People just bring a sketchbook and have a glass of wine. It’s very low-key.”
Moving towards her “ultimate goal” of building a sustainable career as an artist, the Gerringong-born painter is well and truly on her way! She’s now working on pieces for a group show, featuring seven accomplished artists, to be held at the Wollongong Art Gallery later this year. Coinciding with the gallery’s 40th anniversary, the exhibition is one certainly not to be missed!