Mark Welsh: Loving the ‘Unlovable’–the Sweet Impermanence of Physicality

Scouting the nether regions of aesthetics, Mark Welsh is a collector. He retrieves, and lovingly preserves, a collection of never-seen specimens for us to inspect. Some are disturbing, but only at first. Some are whimsical, but somehow deeper than that. All are rare.

One wonders where he has gone to find his ephemeral creatures…how he made their acquaintance and why he came to love them. Skimming his collection and his writings, we find clues:

there is usually a rigid pattern performed without a conscious design in response to certain stimuli

Mark Welsh

This helps me. I begin to understand the xenophobic response that tried to pull me away as I first moved in closer to his work. I begin to understand why, once intimate with these images, I have now broken something inside me, something that has needed to be broken, something judgmental and full of limitation.

Welsh’s work captures the spirit long enough to tutor it and to help it remember basics.

In this world all things are equal.

We would do well to be compassionate and to have an unconditional and loving regard.

Physicality is transient and haphazard.

Something greater is at work.

Welsh not only tempts our vision, pulling us, compelling us, but he tests his viewers, challenging the limitations of our acceptance, of our aesthetic. He engages us in an examination of conscience as we absorb his work.

Often oddly pulled, cropped, distorted and malformed, faces appear to confront us, but they are not aggressive. In fact, there is a stillness about them that reassures us that we may look as directly as we want without reprisal. The admonishment to look away from the malformed falls away. It is polite to look, even to stare, in Welsh’s world. In fact, his characters expect inspection and wait serenely for it. They are not self-conscious. They wait patiently for me to resolve my own discomfort.

Somehow, these characters understand the viewer’s limitations and give us time to work them out. In the end we are equals with xenophobia dissipated. These images teach us that we are similar. They take us to the physics of spirit and help us abandon the physical. This, I think, is Welsh’s greatest gift to his viewers. I begin to wonder about the artist himself and look about for what might be a self-portrait and I think I find one in Aka

Aka, the artist’s chosen RedBubble icon, brings another batch of odd thoughts and feelings. This character is young and I feel protective of him, tender toward his youth. Measurements appear, in the background, some geometric calculations…an intelligence lives in these worlds. Kafka himself lives there. These images are teaching me very pertinent lessons: human beauty is not always symmetrical; commonalities win out over differences…I expect the artist to be a bodhisattva of sorts. I imagine him walking lightly, but with stealth, watching for what must be resolved.

He sends us postcards from his walk: a series of specimens that tell us more about this spiritual journey. He inspects earth’s fundamental elements. He captures insects, reptiles, foul and sea creatures then writes to tell us:

in the north, ever i walk searching.
i am all consuming passion and life.
fire in the belly, fire in the mind.
i bring colour to desert earth
and evolve in all things.
i am fear and burn in all that dream.
you will know me by my touch
and the mark i leave on your soul.
i am the fullness of summer’s joy
and the protecting love of the father.

There’s more, much more… the Purge series invites us into the passion, but also reminds us that the refrigerators, toasters and tables of the world are debris and we must look somewhere else for the essence of this walk that has, I suspect, traveled far since these works were created.

Please watch for him. There will be much, much more to come.

Mark Welsh lives and works in Fremantle, Western Australia.

He displays his work on Red Bubble as Elsh

For more about his work, please visit his site

Mark Welsh: Loving the ‘Unlovable’–the Sweet Impermanence of Physicality

Marie Monroe

Louisville, United States

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