Man, Machine, and Art
Like mankind, the utilitarian objects we use have a life span, a time spent functioning until they cease to function. We are all here for a time, a purpose and then we disappear. In the end, we hope that we are transformed into something divine.
The wall pieces in this series resemble paintings though they cannot be considered paintings. As the artist I do not paint, the pieces are assembled and constructed from found discarded painted steel. The majority of the steel comes from old machinery, farm equipment, vehicles, etc. The steel surfaces I use had a life, a death and a rebirth. The underlying history and actions that caused these surfaces transpired over many years, thus creating an abstract visual documentation of that history.
I often reflect on the history of the pieces. I think of when the steel was first painted and by who, and how the surface marks were caused, who may have used them and how. The found color plates, their natural patinas and textures are not created by any one individual - but by a collective of man, machine, time and nature. I see my work as collaboration: between those who painted the metal, the actions of its past, time, the elements, and myself.
In addition to history, these panels add the aesthetic value of intense colors and textures to the piece as a whole. To keep these appropriated painterly surfaces pure. I do not alter them. To alter them would destroy the intrinsic quality and history. The transformation takes place through assemblage and choice: the metal is chosen in much the same way a painter chooses paint from his palette. The found objects thus create a uniqueness that is individual to each piece.
Starting as a child you are trained to recognize objects, what they are and how they are used. I feel there is a certain strength that bonds the viewer to an artists work who uses recognizable or transformed objects or imagery; especially if the viewer can make the association of how separated the object has come from its original intended use. Although many of the objects I use are recognizable when I find them, through dismantling and reassembling, the primary functions and histories are hidden. This process and transformation is what makes the art important to me.
John Powers 1999
When viewing the artwork of Mark Cesark I found that the steel structure of the wall sculptures has an immediate, forceful impact. One might expect that art created from discarded material would have a raw, forbidding appearance. But, on the contrary, they have a gentle captivating warm and sensual presence. The first impression is followed by a feeling of mystery when one learns that the surface areas are made by chance, sometimes by nature and often by human and mechanical work totally unrelated in their to artistic intent.
The source of the material frequently reveals the cause of the patina and the marks. A piece of steel in a road that served as a bridge over a gully tells the story of its wear from years of wheels, machine treads and boots passing over it – a record of human activity. Another may show two faces if it was abandoned in a field with part of the surface covered so that the uncovered section was eroded by the elements and the rest was protected.
Elements that were originally painted usually have had some or most of the paint worn away. This reveals an artistic expression of subtraction rather than of addition. This recalls the famous story of artist Robert Rauschenberg erasing a De Kooning drawing as a work of art. It was reported that De Kooning was not pleased with the proposal, but said, “ If you must do this you have to erase one of my very good works” and handed Rauschenberg one of his best drawings. The erased drawing is frequently reproduced in art books. It is fascinating to imagine the message of the original De Kooning from the information that remains.
There is an inherent attachment each of us makes to an object that is part of the past. It may be an old coat or comfortable pair of shoes. Perhaps an objects charm is that it was owed by a parent or as a worn baby blanket as a child. These overtones have great
meaning. Worn steel carries its known and its imagined autobiography.
Japanese aesthetics embrace the marks of antiquity. To many collectors ancient wood sculptures that are timeworn or defaced inexplicably, are cherished for their secrets from a former time. This is called “the driftwood” school of collecting. The Japanese word sabi has the aesthetic message, “the patina of age”. The companion word wabi means “a sense of poverty that exceeds riches”. In Japan, these sensibilities are found all around as they are in cultures such as Greece, Italy an Egypt.
Each of the steel sculptures has a story. Sometimes it is in the place where the material was found. Sometimes if can be the special nature of the location such as having come from an abandoned mine, a quarry, a machine repair shop the side of a discarded pick up truck, an old washing machine or a steel bridge. And sometimes it’s a beautiful object found in a field with out explanation – an object of mystery and thus the subject for unhampered imagination. Such information is part of the life of each sculpture