Mark Thompson’s eerie, dramatic paintings inspired by barren landscapes and Nordic Noir

Into the Plaster of Walls, 2017, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

Based in Sweden, Mark Thompson’s eerie and dramatic works are reminiscent of the barren landscapes and Nordic Noir aesthetic that surround him. Whether he is depicting an empty building with closed doors and cavernous hallways or a panoramic snowscape of never-ending streets, his work is unified by an intense aura of nostalgia, mystery and the uncanny.

His fascination with painting as a medium has never wavered throughout his career; in his words, "there is something about the slowing down of time that painting requires – the fixing of an image over time - that held my attention and still does."

Created painstakingly with layer upon layer of oil paint and glaze on wood, the expressive style of Thompson’s practice is comparable to book illustration and film concept art, with its three-dimensionality and use of sharp architectural lines and angles. Thompson hints at an outline of a place, then lets our imagination fill in the story behind his monochromatic colours, relying on his own memories and their hazy imperfection.

Rather than photography, which captures a close representation of the real, his process results in a landscape with a vast sense of emotional depth and a larger-than-life interpretation of strangely familiar scenes. This technique, perfected throughout his career, is described by Thompson: "The paintings, in particular, are works of memory – the slow development or exposure of a photograph being both a useful metaphor and an actuality in my practice. The filter of memory appears to retain only what is personally important, and the inevitable mix of my own history and experience fills in the gaps. Only that which remains is important – the extraneous and fleeting are not registered. The final image is, therefore, a remnant, the world distilled. This remembered world inevitably fades and decays, and I catch all I can before there is nothing left. This is my starting point."

Launching on 18 January, Mark Thompson: The World Distilled at Proud Galleries in London is a new exhibition exploring place and memory, and its emotive, quiet landscapes add a dream-like quality to empty and abandoned scenes. The artworks are large and atmospheric and when viewed as a collection, have a remarkable capacity to invoke feelings of nostalgia for strange, unfamiliar spaces. Thompson’s art questions whether it is possible to bring a fading memory to life by recalling a distant place and reflecting on these fragmented moments.

The Rise and Stall of Your Breathing, 2017, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

The Rise and Stall of Your Breathing, 2017, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

For Rivers to Run Through the Wood and Concrete of Floors, 2017, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

For Rivers to Run Through the Wood and Concrete of Floors, 2017, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

A Fragile Geometry, 2018, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

A Fragile Geometry, 2018, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

Time’s Ever Pressing Hands, 2018, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson

Time’s Ever Pressing Hands, 2018, Mark Thompson © Mark Thompson