Mark Tiitinen, icon, degree show
Image courtesy of Mark Tiitinen

News 27 July 2020

Degree Show 2020: Meet one of this year's graduates, Mark Tiitinen

Introduce yourself and your work. What ideas and themes are important to you?

I am a student finishing the MA by distance from Australia, where I am partly from.

My work is mainly egg tempera painting of manuscripts, floor designs and icon studies from the artistic tradition of the Orthodox Church. Stylistically, my main influence is the otherworldly beauty of the liturgical arts of Roman Late Antiquity/Byzantium.

Basically, I try to do traditional arts here and now; (hopefully) aligning with that same ethos to speak the same truth in today's idiom. Ultimately, I care about real world application; experiential rather than speculative, and resonating on the intuitive, rather than the merely cognitive level.

What materials do you use? Why are they important to your practice?

I use whatever materials I can find around me in the natural environment. In Australia, I prefer to use native materials: local plants and minerals for dyes/stains and pigments, and local timber for woodworking.

These are important to my practice because they are my practice. Foraging for, preparing and using natural materials is not only great fun, but connects you to the materials and the place you found them. Figuratively speaking, local materials are like a local language. And what better way to build relationships with the locals than by learning their dialect? It just makes sense to me.

Describe your studio to us – what would we find?

Great views and a right mess.

How has the lock-down influenced your work? What new things have emerged in your work because of the restrictions?

They say that crisis reveals. In that sense, lockdown certainly illumined my work. Necessity and duress, in my infinitesimal experience of them, focus and sober the mind. Lockdown stripped back distractions and reordered priorities like a crucible purifying gold. (Although whether this is visible in my work, I do not know.) But had it been business as usual, I doubt I would have produced even half the quantity (and perhaps quality) of work. That said, lockdown did influence my mediums; plans for ceramics changed to schematic paintings, and planned iconography studies on Mt. Athos changed to self-study at home.

What drew you to the School, and what do you want to remember about these last two years?

The MA: it was everything I ever wanted to do in art-terms. I had always wanted to study art but had never found a suitable programme, nor had the time or circumstances been right. What it boiled down to was this; life is too short not to at least give these things your best shot. On my deathbed, I will not wish I did more paperwork at the office.

I would like to remember the experiences I had in the places I went, the things that I learned, (and did not learn), but most of all, the people I met.

When we’re all able to be out in the world again, what are your hopes?

My hope is to get some land and build something beautiful. When the new abnormal ends, I hope you can all come and visit.

About this year's Degree Show:

This year, we will be showcasing our graduates' work online from 6 August to 6 September 2020.

Work will be available to buy directly from the students.