Whitehot Magazine

Mark Enstone On Painting Scenes of Intimacy & Artistic Authorship

Mark Enstone, Art Fair Booth #1 Exit, 122 x 152cm., 48 x 60 in., oil on canvas.


For a long time, Mark Enstone thought “painting was something other people did.” A fashion photographer turned painter, Enstone worked for over 30 years in editorial beauty but caved into his desire to paint, coincidentally around New Year’s, a time for resolution and fresh beginnings. “I went to my photographic studio and attempted to paint abstracts. I thought, ‘Is this a crisis?’ But then I kept painting and realized I wanted to say something.” Enstone cites that “photography can be difficult to show voice—it didn’t allow me to say exactly what I wanted.” Enstone’s chosen narrative—directly inspired by his experiences behind the camera—are unseen moments worth looking at. 

Enstone recalls he would observe a “sort of intimacy with a facilitated ease” that would occur amongst women during photoshoot preparation. "Nothing happens before 11 o’clock. It’s a lengthy process. I used to witness an instant bond, this thing that women seem to have the faculty for while chatting, doing make-up and hair.” By examining these “dynamics of intimacy,” something revealing emerged. He began interpreting these gestures, creating stories around them. He wishes for the same result when a viewer looks at this work: a partnership between artist and audience.

Using the studio environment as a recurring role in his work, Enstone leaned into his penchant for collegial environments as his point of view. “I’ve had a career of collaborative work. Any commercial project involves working as a team. From the art director, hair stylist, etc.” He also notes a quote by postmodern American painter David Humphrey, who gathered paintings of Dwight D. Eisenhower and recreated his own renditions: “It is a ‘one-handed collaboration’ taking someone else’s painting and working with it. It’s a nod to the continuity of painting, referencing the painters before me and the painters that have yet to be.” Enstone seeks to speak to his audience but also the art community at large.

Mark Enstone, The Love Letter, 100 x 80 cm., 39 x 31 in., oil on canvas.

Much like Humphrey’s Eisenhower paintings, Enstone borrows subtle gestures then effectively credits them through the titles. He remarks, “it’s an acknowledgement that all painters living in the post-internet age—a grab bag of stuff—are sort of experiencing art history differently, in that, it’s everywhere and more accessible.” He reflects on his time at art school studying photography, where he found each discipline kept amongst their own group, feeling “more siloed.” He didn’t know what the painters were doing, what art they were learning about. He goes on to say that “the benefit of using someone else’s figure helps in the task of finding a title–an otherwise near impossible task.” The direction in his work can essentially be an act of memorialization. 

Enstone’s approach is surely part of the digital age. He shares, when starting a painting, that the “composition is a complex assemblage in Photoshop. Many of the paintings are taken from multiple sources and my own archive of photos, photo poses I’ve taken specifically, ads, magazine tear sheets, and internet searches.” 

In Pity Party, there are two women sitting on the sofa, while three others stand around them. Of the women standing, two wear a similar puffer jacket—“the jackets are Moncler and Prada,” a nod to his high fashion photography work—while one simply wears a dark colored hoodie. They all seem to be congregating over some type of news. Enstone says, “There’s very little of Anna Park’s painting in my version. The woman on the sofa in a stripey top is what I referenced from her painting, just the head and maybe the angle of her body. From her head down, she’s my 24-year-old daughter Phoebe, who I got to pose on the sofa.” Grabbing a slight gesture from an artist then incorporating his own life is how Enstone is able to be a part of a collective but also convey his own voice: “It transforms into something ‘of my own’ once I start to draw it out large with a brush and see a fluidity of line, at that point it hopefully feels like a thing of itself.”

Mark Enstone, Five Seated Figures, 80 x 100 cm., 31 x 39 in., oil on canvas.

Similarly, in Art Fair Booth #1 Exit, one of his only works that feature a man—Enstone steals the scene from one of the photo shoots he worked on. The man in question, his back facing the viewer, is up for discussion. “The figure on the left is an Eric Fischl painting and then there is a male figure on the right—it is clearly a balding man.” Though he is quick to deny that the man is him, he eventually humors the idea, remembering what a friend of his said of the painting, “My friend is a psychotherapist and she looked at this painting and said, ‘This is about your mother.’ Maybe she was right.” Then, in Five Seated Figure, Enstone pays a more playful homage to Wayne Thiebaud. Instead of having five subjects in the painting, Enstone cheekily decides to paint three. “I find it very pleasing to have this simple joke.”  

By utilizing his own experiences then pairing them with an existing piece, Enstone has a collection that speaks to his interests with the inherent ability to show what he’s always meant to say. Enstone is excited about his book release of paintings and an essay written by a friend (an endeavor that truly is Enstone’s gestalt). While he originally observed these moments of intimacy to paint, he insists that the gestures belong to the next set of watchers, the audience, to glean whatever they find curious enough to peer at.  

Let Enstone’s work remind us to slow down and really see the moments that make up our time. It begs us to look closer at what naturally interests us, the instincts we follow, and the values we keep—all of which inform an essential understanding of our own authentic voice, what it sounds like, and most importantly, how to use it. 

To learn more about Mark Enstone, please visit his website here and follow him on Instagram: @markenstone. WM

Mariepet Mangosing

Mariepet Mangosing is a bi-coastal writer and graphic designer from Jersey City. She has worked in brand packaging, web and print design for the past decade. Her feature length screenplay The Batholiths has been shortlisted in the Macro x Blacklist Feature Screenwriting Incubator program. In her work, she advocates mental wellness and accurate cultural representation in film, television and other media. She examines relationship dynamics through a first-generation immigrant lens. She has her BA in Visual Communications from Ramapo College of New Jersey and is an MFA candidate in Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University.

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