Yorkshire’s moors, dales and fishing villages might seem to be an unlikely inspiration for an artist born and bred in Western Australia, but to Mark Sofilas, Yorkshire’s landscapes and coastline were the catalyst for making the transition from commercial artist to landscape artist.
Mark was born in Bunbury, in Western Australia. He began his professional career in 1981 working in publishing as an illustrator by day and as a freelance artist by night.
His Australian career also included working in advertising in Sydney during which time he created artwork for household names such as Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Qantas and the Australian Cricket Board. He was commissioned to paint a series of past Australian Americas Cup contenders which forms part of the permanent collection of the White House Library, and he illustrated an award-winning children’s book, “The Burnt Stick”.
Notwithstanding his successes in the commercial art world, however, Mark always had a long-standing ambition and desire to paint for himself and an opportunity to relocate to the UK in the summer of 2008 with his British partner, Kate, and twin daughters presented him with the chance of a lifetime. The move to Yorkshire was a giant step into the unknown for all concerned; although Kate’s family has connections with Yorkshire, neither Mark nor Kate had ever visited area.
The move, however, proved to be successful for all concerned, not least for Mark who was immediately gripped by the clear, subtle light of the North and the uncompromising, resolute beauty of the Dales and the North East coast. This was the inspiration that had previously eluded him; cutting his ties with the commercial art world, Mark decided that he would, from that point onwards, focus solely on fine art.
“I find the Yorkshire landscape and coast very inspiring. Something just triggered me to think I had found my true direction. When I was living in Sydney I drove past the Opera House every day and after a while you don’t really notice it anymore. I think it’s the same with people here, but I’m all wide eyed like a kid in a sweet shop. I’m seeing Yorkshire for the first time which obviously adds something to my paintings.”
Mark was also struck by the sense of history in the Dales which is something he tries to get into his work and he finds the seasonal changes quite remarkable. “In Australia you don’t really have definite changes of season, whilst in Yorkshire Autumn and Spring are so markedly different and each provides a unique mood. I have an almost limitless supply of references for my paintings”
Mark paints full time from his studio in Leeds, working in oil, a medium that he finds advantageous for revealing the intrinsic geometry of the natural world, a style which is rapidly becoming his trademark. His use of colour is bold and direct which encourages the viewer to consider familiar landscapes in a new guise.
He tries not to work from photographs relying instead on memory and imagination. “I try to get the lie of the land and a sense of the history into my head and let the idiosyncrasies of the Yorkshire landscape provide the inspiration’’.
When asked what he thinks of Yorkshire Mark replied “The beers are pretty good which is a great starting point! But it’s the light and the landscape that are Yorkshire great attributes and these have given me a new life and career.”
He has created a body of work of over 100 paintings, all of which display his trademark rich, earthy, elemental colours and eccentric use of perspective.
Mark is an exhibiting member of Leeds Fine Artists. In 2011 he made his London debut at the Affordable Art Fair and has a major exhibition at the Harrison Lord Gallery Brighouse in the heart of Yorkshire starting on 1st October.
Visit www.harrisonlord.co.uk for more details of the show. Harrison Lord Gallery, 5 Bradford Rd, Brighouse, HD6 1RW, tel. 01484 722462.