Recap: Mark Lyken "The Loneliness Machines" at Recoat Gallery in Glasgow
Abstract graffiti artist, painter and music producer, Mark Lyken has started the year off with a Big Bang. He immersed himself in a residency during the month of January at the Recoat Gallery in Glasgow, emerging with an intense multimedia experience consisting of intergalactic art, a soundtrack, an animation and an installation. According to Lyken, the show was “conceived & created in the gallery space in a frenzy of sixteen hour days, seven days a week.” This show, called The Loneliness Machines, was the result of his frenetic, tumescent energies, bursting like psychedelic fireworks, immersing the space in a multi-media mulitverse.
Lyken – Loneliness Machines Preview from Gamma Proforma on Vimeo.
This new universe Lyken defines as “abstract meditations on the digital world.” Intended as a mirror held up to the electronic age, the exhibition raises new millennium themes of digital transformation, technological mediation, social media-based interpersonal relationships, and computers as prosthesis and repositories of human personality and culture. Lyken’s work is intellectual, abstract and beautiful. As you can see here and on the exhibition website, his paintings are refined and stunning in composition, palette and technique. Hanging on the walls of the gallery, they resemble views from a starship cruiser portal, sliding through the dark matter of deep space beyond star clusters, spiral nebulae and glowing amorphous clouds.
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The gallery itself has been transformed into a three-dimensional map that connects all the elements of the exhibition. Check out this cool 360 degree interactive panorama of the gallery. The walls have been reticulated with diagrammatic lines painted on the walls, resembling a technological timeline, a network of relationships, trending topics, and transportation trajectories. The airspace, a further network of colored string, continues this diagram as if it is also an astronomical chart mapping the telemetry of comet and meteor trails across the sky.
Lyken has created a completely immersive multimedia environment, a geography of sight and sound. In totality, the elements create a cohesive aesthetic statement that permeates the visitor’s senses. The focal point of` the installation is a corner pile up of analogue and digital detritus — antique computers, polaroid memories, and references to his days as a graffiti writer. A short film called Sisyphus_73 has Invited you to like his page plays on multiple screens with Lyken as the character of Sisyphus. In an urban retelling of the myth, he is doomed to carry an enormous Facebook “like” sculpture for all eternity.
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In the back of the gallery, Lyken painted a dark matter cosmos, which toys with perception as it radiates galactic bursts and emanates laser beams which connect to the paint and string network on the walls and in the airspace. Hand painted signage and labels of digital typography continue the aesthetic throughout the printed matter and on the walls and windows of the gallery. Titles such as “I want to kiss you hard on the mouth” and “Try turning me on and off again”, gently mock as well as yearn for actual human contact.
His electronic music plays over speakers, headphones and monitors elevating the environment to a level of complete sensory transgression. A free MP3 download of the soundtrack is available and a full album of his music called Bit Rot on Gamma Proforma Records can be purchased from iTunes. The music sounds like something that could have been made by meditating cyborgs on mushrooms, or as Lyken quips, “Androids on ketamine.”
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In order to put this current exhibition in context, it’s important to mention a little about Lyken’s past, present and future. Lyken has a history stemming from the eighties when he was one of the first graffiti writers active in Scotland. He enjoyed critical success in the 90’s with the electro band Voigt Kampff and for a number of years designed and published the graffiti magazine Skinnycap.
One of his early memories as a graffiti writer and fan follows: “Phase2. Livingston. Scotland. 1993 or so. Under Pressure Jam organized by EEZ. I was lucky enough to hang out & watch Phase paint this. I was 18 & all these dudes I admired were on my doorstep! Also rockin’ tuff were Derm, Ash, Jon One, Mode, Shok, Sharp, Zebster, amongst others. Vulcan was there too for the IG times talk/slideshow. He looked through my Black Book & said ‘Pretty Wild for Straight Letters.’ I almost kissed him. Shok One gave me one of his biscuits. Good Times.”
Currently he is involved with a loosely associated group of artists from around the world that have been united by Art Poesia’s website Graffuturism. Last year, Lyken curated the ground breaking Graffuturism exhibition, Rudimentary Perfection, also at the Recoat Gallery in Glasgow. This exhibition is notable for attracting the community’s major players from around the world, who felt compelled to travel out of their own pocket to hang out together and paint around town for a week in preparation for the show. Recoat had taken initiative to find walls throughout the city and accommodate the artists so they could paint together and get to know each other in person.
Most of the artists involved with the group, but not necessarily in attendance at Rudimentary Perfection, tend to be in their late thirties or older. They have been graffiti artists since adolescence but overtime have mixed in other elements and become interested in a wider variety of art forms, such as abstraction, expressionism, outsider art, color field painting, architecture, design, and more. They also tend to lean towards the intellectual and the poetic in nature and expression. They are a multi-cultural band, coming from all corners of the globe. This is not a group united by geography, but by similar aesthetic temperaments.
The artists that attended Rudimentary Perfection were Jaybo Monk from Berlin, Art Poesia from San Francisco, Mr. Jago from Bristol (a founding member of The Scrawl Collective), Augustine Kofie from Los Angeles, SheOne from London, Derm from Edinburgh, Morten Anderson from Denmark, Nawer from Krakow, Matt W. Moore from Portland Maine, and Lyken from Glasgow. Other artists involved in the group are RemiRough from London, Juice126 from London (founder of the UK crew in eighties called ArtX and then Ikonoklast Movement in the nineties which includes RemiRough), Joker from San Francisco (founder of Transcend Collective in the nineties, which includes Art Poesia), CageOne from Scarborough, Teo Pirisi from Italy, Part2, L’Atlas, SatOne, El Mac, Timid (Founding member of Agents of Change), Codak, Mare139 and Haze ((NYC graff legends who appeared in the seminal documentary Wild Style), Steve More, Dana Wolfe, Dave Persue, Marco Pho Grassi (Phobia), Oliver Prin, Rae Martini, and more.
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Lyken has retreated back into the studio to begin work on a series called Pattern Interrupt to be held at Art-el Gallery in Bristol and recently launched an art and fashion collaboration with Camille Lorigo (of Che Camille fame) and the costumier Jennie Dear called The Fine Art of Tailoring. If you are in Belfast on the 31st of March, he will also be transforming the entire gable end of The Menagerie Building to launch Gamma Proforma’s Mata monthly art party. The biggest news, just announced last week, is that he was awarded the Sublime Artist Residency for his Terrestial Sea project. The paragraph below is from his proposal:
My aim through the Residency is to research the parallels between marine mammals and human senses, focusing on how physical spaces, ocean & terrestrial, effect behavioral patterns. In order to achieve this I will work closely with the LFS Marine Research Team in Cromarty and in conjunction with the IOTA Team & the larger Community of Inverness… In Cromarty I will utilize the biologists knowledge and expertise, accompanying them in the field to gather source material (audio & visual) for my work. By doing this I will gain insight into their practice and a full understanding of how to interpret the final data and tailor and develop my work to best construct a narrative. In Inverness I plan to conduct human geographical research with the IOTA Team in an urban context, gathering information and audiovisual material through Interviews, workshops, archive searches and community engagement. I intend to isolate and explore these behavioral and sensory commonalities by exporting and importing elements between two key inland and coastal locations, ie: superimposing urban onto coastal, coastal onto urban. This will form the shell of two unique sensory installations collectively known as “The Terrestrial Sea.”
If The Loneliness Machines is any indication, the exhibition resulting from the Sublime Artist Residency should be an even Bigger Bang. Congratulations, Mark!
Text: Daniel Feral
Photo: Mark Lyken