In Jade van der Mark's new body of work, the London-based artist explores modern society, both before and after the coronavirus pandemic, and highlights issues of overpopulation, isolation, greed and oppression.
Amsterdam-born, van der Mark uses cities and crowds as a source of inspiration, sketching in the heart of the capital and documenting urban life to create her large-scale portraits. Playful but profound, her paintings make the mundane vibrant and beautiful, with an edge of melancholia.
Applying thick coats of oil, there's a monumental texture to her work, full of rich detail and complexity. The use of bold and abstracted colour palettes only adds to its gravitas. As each layer may take up to a week to dry, van der Mark's paintings are the result of a laboured process lasting up to eight months. Containing multiple stories, which over the course of completion have been altered or painted over, her works unveil hidden narratives that encourage deeper reflection.
Although she dives into diverse identities, her characters seemingly lack connection. Set in non-descript city spaces, van der Mark's paintings speak to an overwhelming sense of disconnect that resonates globally. Works created in early 2020 depict crowded scenes, where figures are frozen in the chaos of rush hour, their stress and exhaustion evident in their expressions.
In 'We're All Human', for example, she presents a densely populated crowd sprawling across a wide canvas, measuring over four metres in length and almost three in height. What seems like hundreds of city dwellers, distinguished through lively clothing and colourful faces, move across all directions. With almost no negative spaces between them, individuals remain fully engrossed in their own worlds, often shielded by phones, headphones and masks.
Works created during the recent lockdown, instead turn to empty spaces, the absence of crowds, and the disconnect that arises as a result of social distancing. Others recount a society in quarantine, with surreal depictions of supermarket queues, and voyeuristic views of figures isolating inside apartments. The works juxtapose with those created pre-lockdown, forcing us to reflect on how significantly city life has changed and asking us "not to recall the chaos with rose-tinted glasses".
Works such as 'Judgement' and 'Greed' are influenced by the artist's fashion background and depict the "materialism and harsh elitism of the fashion world," as she puts it. The figures in 'Greed' queue frantically to get into a large Louis Vuitton store, while 'Judgement' transports us to the front row of a catwalk, where "haughty influencers and celebrities scrutinise parading models".
One of the most exciting young artists to come out of the Dutch art scene, van der Mark was born in the town of Bergen, often regarded as an artists' town due of its remarkable natural light. She spent lockdown at her home in Amsterdam. "While lockdown has forced us into physical isolation, we were already isolated in modern society. Travelling the cities of the world, I've noticed that no matter the size of the crowd, people are isolated. Lockdown has highlighted this, but it's also given us the gift of realising the loss of our connection to each other. I hope my paintings remind the viewer that whether in a crowd or alone, we do have a connection, and it is vital for us all to remember and nurture it."
We're All Human by Jade van der Mark will go on display in a solo exhibition at Pi Artworks in Fitzrovia, London from 5 December until 12 December 2020.