Yorkshire’s 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 Yorkshire 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.
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, 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 does not, however work from photographs; ‘I try to get more memory and imagination into my paintings. I want to paint places that are recognisable at the moment, I make sure I visit the place and get to know a bit of the history and the feel of the place… the lie of the land basically. It’s easy enough to browse the net and grab photos that somebody else has taken – but I think there is an added substance to the painting if you have actually been to the place and experienced it for yourself first hand’
The artist 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 Yorkshire in a new guise. His new solo exhibition at the Harrison Lord Gallery on the 6th October focuses on Mark’s extremely popular sea and harbour scenes; “The inspiration for this series of paintings was drawn from my numerous visits to the East Yorkshire coastline. I’m from a family with a long history of commercial fishing and since arriving in the U.K I have developed a real affinity with the sea faring townships that are dotted along the coast. In this body of paintings I have tried to capture some of the many moods of the sea & coastline towns, the fishermen & their boats, the long rugged beaches & the bays. The images are familiar Yorkshire scenes but they never fail to provide me with inspiration and I always offer something new both visually & emotional. “
The reactions to Mark’s paintings have so far been extremely positive; “It’s been great; I receive emails from people who I haven’t met, who have purchased my work, and it’s all been very promising and encouraging. I think its striking a chord with these people, something emotional has been created and they are taking the time to let me know which is fantastic.”
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’s great attributes and these have given me a new life and career. From here I go back to the studio. Hopefully this will be it for the rest of my life, I’d like to keep painting and evolving, as long as I can hold a brush I will be at the easel.”
Mark is an exhibiting member of Leeds Fine Artists. In 2011 he made his London debut at the Affordable Art Fair and has his second major exhibition at the Harrison Lord Gallery Brighouse in the heart of Yorkshire starting on 6st October.
Visit www.harrisonlord.co.uk for more details of the show. Harrison Lord Gallery, 5 Bradford Rd, Brighouse, HD6 1RW, tel. 01484 722462.