Art and Design
Marcus Stolk, artist and designer, currently lives in Copenhagen. Marcus has
a BA degree in arts (Academy for the Arts Rotterdam, Holland) and a first degree
in art history and teaching. He has held many international exhibitions of his
work, has designed and built environmental strawbale houses, and has recently
opened a gallery in Copenhagen. He has worked for more then ten years as an
international lecturer on the topics of how to enhance one's creative potential,
æsthetics, beauty and function and into the deeper meaning and influence
of colour, form and shape.
Door handles, shoes and cups of coffee
"As you sit there in that chair, you are asking me why people should have
an interest in art and design! Well, I don't know whether they should or not,
but let me ask you a question - are you sitting comfortably?"
"Well, yes!" I replied, surprised at the question.
"How does it make you feel to sit in that chair? Does it cause you to be
mentally active, does it settle you or do you just want to sink back and relax?"
"It makes me sit up straight, and it is a hard chair, so it definitely
doesn't put me to sleep!" I replied a bit hesitantly.
"You see, in almost everything we surround ourselves with," Mark Stolk
continued, "somewhere along the way an artistic or design process has been
involved! It is in the door handle, in those shoes you wear and the cup you
drink your coffee from. And all of these things condition you and me, as we
sit here, in one way or the other. If you are open to their influence, you can
then connect directly into the mindset, thoughts and feelings of what moved
the person who made or designed it. As an example, this painting you see on
the wall, which I call "The Dream", how does it make you feel? What
do you think of it?"
"It is beautiful, very peaceful, meditative. I like the strong turquoise
colour of her dress and the serene look on her face, and there is a holy nature
in the painting as well," I said.
"So, what then does what you say, say about what moved the painter to make
this? And how accurate are people generally in their interpretation of art,
and how conscious and aware are we of the different influences in a painting,
such as how the different colours influence us, the postures, the composition,
the hue and brightness of the colours, and so on?"
Art can be harmful too
"You know that certain art can be harmful?" Mark continued. "If
you are open to the influences of certain works of art, because of what may
be loaded into them during the process of making them, this can make you ill.
As an example, in 1995 the "Berlingske Tidende", one of Denmark's
leading newspapers, wrote a substantial article on the damaging effect art can
have on our health. A kinesiologist called Ole Larsen, who has taught thousands
of people about how art can influence our health, tested many people whilst
they were looking at specific works of art. He found by the process of kinesiology
that some art had a negative effect on the person and some positive."
"What kind of art can have a negative effect?"
"Well, as an example, much modern art and also certain native art. Art
in which, for instance, you can see faces with wry and stressed eyes, predator-like
faces. Ole Larson said that it signals danger to our subconscious, and can instantly
sap our strength. He also claims that artists who work under stress or are in
pain pass their stress on to those who observe their works of art. Now this
has been difficult to prove scientifically, but when they did some tests on
the influence of different works of art on hospital patients some years later,
it seemed very likely that patients healed quicker when looking at art with
What are art and design here to do?
"I am constantly asking myself questions about what art and design are
here to do." Mark continues, "There is art that is clearly trying
to provoke and shock. Is that what it is here to do? Some art makes comment
on the world we live in. Is it here to confront our moralities and values? Or
should art be educational? Should it give new perceptions and thoughts? Or should
art always be seeking new style or fashion? Let's say that someone creates a
66 metre white and red banana, and they put this on the main square in Copenhagen
and call it 'Rising Danish Moon' - is this art? Is this new art or have we seen
this before in different variations? I don`t think it is new. I could construct
a 66 metre paint brush in bronze, erect it vertically in the same square and
call it: 'I paint the heavens grey'. Surely the fact of the construction cannot
be the determiner of art. No, it must have to do with what is in the artist
or designer's head. What is the concept and idea behind it all, and does this
contribute something positive and original to the society we live in?"
The art of Nature
"If we look at nature we can see that there is an order and a 'lawfulness'
running through it. There is day and night, male and female, young and old.
Nature is full of different influences that in some way are ordered. Now you
probably know that red rooms have a compressing and heating effect on us, whilst
a blue room does the opposite, even to the extent of changing our body temperature.
Similarly a square construction is very different in what it causes compared
to a circle."
"If you use these forms or colours in your work of art or design, it
has an influence. But if you are not aware of what they cause, if you can't
feel it, how can you then truly know what you are putting across in your art?
Nature is coded and is lawful and it has always been there. Nature is ordered
specifically, and many people in history, including artists and designers, were
to some extent conscious of the influence of all these natural principles and
laws. You can find these influences in great art and design because if you want
to create something with a specific effect, you have to study and know what
you are doing! Thus certain art and design can cause us to feel lifted up into
finer feelings and perceptions than is generally possible. And having uplifted
us, we are made to look at things differently, often with awe and wonder. And
I believe that art should cause this."
Uomo Universalis, ahead of his time
"Some artists and designers were the instigators of a new spirit within
their times, having the ability to connect into new perceptions and new creativity.
We all know the classic examples such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van
Gogh, Gaudy and others.
Why is it that we consider some artists to have genius? What makes them different
from the other artists of their time? Leonardo da Vinci, as an example, was
not just an artist; he was a scientist, a writer, a physician, an engineer,
an inventor and a physicist. He was a true "Uomo Universalis" or universal
man - a person ahead of his time."
L´Art pour l´Art, or art for art's sake
"Today, the worlds of art and design in our Western society tend to serve
their own ideas and purposes, rather than being an integrated part of society
- this is l`Art pour l´Art or art for art's sake. It becomes mostly self-validating,
and justifies itself under the title of art because we are unable to define
art and what purpose it serves. Furthermore, those involved then create a class
distinction between the art intelligentsia and the masses, and it becomes a
self-authorising clique determining what is deemed art and what is not."
Art and design are an integrated part of life
"What are the attitudes you regard as necessary for the future artist
"I think it has to start with an active passion and interest in life,
and why and how it is put together. This is what all great artists and designers
had in common - a powerful urge to find out about the meaning of life, what
it is all there to do, with colours, forms, proportions and dimensions. I also
believe that there is a responsibility in being an artist, and a determination
and knowing as to what you will and will not create, realising that your art
or designs will have an influence on people and on young minds. Art and design
are an integrated part of life, often caused by an overspill of value and the
desire to make a contribution back to life, with respect and the wish to enhance
and not to harm. It arises from a passion about the future, the best of yesterday,
and the opportunity of our now."
Interviewer: Lars Bjerregaard