Some might think it's ghastly, but others – probably most – might believe that using hair as an artistic subject matter is a stroke of utter genius. Tactile and textural, Erik Mark Sandberg 's portraits of people have this unbelievable aesthetic that makes you want to reach out and touch them.
"There is a comfort that the hirsutism and fur textures communicate," he tells us. "These textures are metaphors that investigate the psyche within the images."
For Erik, his work is much more than a visual treat that's covered in fuzz. The materiality and means of expressing himself on a canvas is a way for him to "investigate the psyche within the images". He adds: "The material used allows for a depth of illusionism on the reflective epoxy surface, which speaks to the ideas in paintings. The figurative forms reference personas found in digital environments and observations from contemporary life."
Based in Los Angeles, Mark moved to the area to study at Art Center College of Design and has stayed ever since. He started as a freelance illustrator before switching to exhibitions: "The transference of ideas through exhibiting physical works allowed for different negotiations between myself and the viewer," he shares. These conversations are drawn from the environment and contemporary culture, particularly the "California dreaming vibe" that repeatedly pops up in his work. "The work reflects a type of observational zeitgeist from daily life in LA and from being online," he continues. It is why the pallets are so colourful, tinted by the rays of the infamous LA skies.
In one image named The Conversation, created for a solo show titled Interlude, Erik explores themes of rest, solitude, youth culture and love in the modern-day. Awash in pastel green, you'll see a teddy bear-like creation sitting aside a woman. Both are perched in a car amongst a formation of trees and branches. "Automotive interiors can be a sanctuary for private discourse and an extension of identity," shares Erik. "Consequently, the paintings' automotive interiors function as physical and psychological prosthetics."
When making the piece, Erik says that the colour choices were intuitive and later refined during development. He also says that the artwork has a layer of epoxy resin poured over the top. "Once cured, more refined paint rendering occurs to give the hair and fur texture surface depth." Then, in the final phase, Erik designed and hand-pulled a translucent blue silkscreen layer of raindrops, covering the panel to "Create more surface detail" when viewed in real life.
Erik's process is fascinating and fuelled by a mix of analogue and digital techniques. He describes it as "long, unhealthy painting marathons", aided by technology that quickens the pace of planning and construction. Currently working on a new series of paintings for an upcoming solo show later this year in LA, we can't wait to see where Erik takes his practice next.
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