The Contemporary Art Society has acquired a work by London-based artist Mark Titchner for Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Titchner’s practice navigates the complex web of ideologies and belief systems that form our zeitgeist. The work is an exploration of how ideas are filtered through culture moving from the counterculture to the mainstream. He often juxtaposes conflicting sentiments. By asking the viewer to contend with opposing ideas, he reveals the influence of political, religious and scientific belief systems on our lives.
Titchner works across a range of media including wall drawing, video, sculpture, digital print and installation. He is concerned with how we receive ideas through public messaging, often using found text, such as song lyrics or quotes from philosophers, to examine how the same utopian sentiments exist across different media, from political propaganda to advertising.
The work acquired by CAS, Love and Work, 2012 is one of an ongoing series of carved wooden pieces that are often made alongside fellow artists who work with digital prints. The text was inspired by sayings of the radical Austrian Psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich: “Love, work and knowledge are the wellsprings of life, they should also govern it”, and Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran “Love is work made solid.”
Titchner explains that in 2003 he began using the computer as his primary tool for drawing, viewing it as a contemporary form of cottage industry. At the same time, he was exploring ways of avoiding an entirely screen-based practice. This led him to creating carved wooden works which he compared to a “devotional process”. The work was carved in wood, burnt, then aluminium leaf applied to the surface. The works are digitally designed and then executed by hand, making visible the labour involved in the process. It is in line with the text of the work, which emphasises the relationship between labour and devotion. The central design element is based on the figure of the Lotus flower often found in Buddhist art. This is combined with floral elements commonly found in the Arts and Crafts movement and text rendered in Futura font.
Titchner worked on a number of projects in Birmingham and the West Midlands over the years. The themes of Titchner’s work and his Arts and Craft-inspired aesthetic have repeatedly come to the fore as an area of interest at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
Mark Titchner (b. 1973, Luton) has created public commissions for Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Together We Are So Much More (2019) and Art on the Underground’s No Them Only Us (2016).