The drawings and paintings, the visual objects, by Mark Goodwin are enigmatic and beautiful. Based on process and investigation, and on skill, material, and chance, they have a sculptural and poetic sensibility. They are at the same time both intimate and foreign.
To begin with folds and marks are imprinted from the back into the flat surface of the paper or canvas. An initial topography is created which, when the work is turned over, is further explored and developed with paint applied to the surface. As the work takes form, the image is repeatedly scraped and sanded, erased and revealed, as new layers of paint are applied, and new marks are imprinted from behind.
For Goodwin, the surface of his work is a place of encounters between diverging impulses; an investigation that leads toward vaguely remembered states of mind and possible new states of being. They also exude a strong sense of presence, asking for the viewer’s participation. The work beckons the eyes, while offering up clues for rumination.
The work brings to mind aspects of Jorge Luis Borges’ story, “A Weary Man’s Utopia,” in which the narrator, for unknown reasons, is visiting a distant future and enters a tall man’s house “after riding down a road across a plain.” He notices a water clock on the table and, while speaking to the man in Latin, picks up a book and opens it at random. The letters, he writes, “were clear and indecipherable and written by hand.” Their angular lines reminded him of “the runic alphabet.”
During the visit he sees a wall hung with rectangular paintings, and is able to partially make out some of the imagery. They had, he writes, “something of the infinite about it.” It turns out they are painted by the tall man, and he gives the visitor one of them. The narrator then writes: “The other canvases disturbed me. I will not say they were blank, but almost blank.” The tall man, perhaps sensing his unease, says to him: “They are painted with colors that your ancient eyes cannot see.”
The narrator returns to the present and, in his study, hangs “the canvas that someone will paint, thousands of years from now, with substances that are now scattered across the planet.”
The story is a testimony to the power and unknown qualities of the visual language and of the written and spoken language. Like Mark Goodwin’s paintings, there is simultaneously a past, a present, and a future. As human beings, as ancient tribes, and as future generations, we try to divine the presence of the gods and try to see the lines of our individual fate. We test the limits of our presence, our consciousness, and our being. We are traversed by stories, events, and landscapes; our presence is a living canvas, a surface constantly written and re-written.