Close-Up: Mark Heine, Award-Winning Victoria Painter

by Christine Clark
Victoria-based painter, writer and environmentalist Mark Heine recently received the Haynes Galleries Award at the 14th International ARC Salon Competition, for his oil painting Labyrinth. The competition honours works of contemporary realism. Here, Heine talks to Preview about his work, his activism and his family.
Preview: Labyrinth is from the series titled Sirens. You have described Sirens as being both a show of paintings and a book.
Heine: Yes. I’ve always written about my paintings, and it’s a big part of my creative process. I’m a storyteller. My writing inspires my painting, and my painting drives my writing. Each of the 75-and-counting Sirens paintings is a key moment from my coming Sirens book or its sequel.
Preview: Your paintings are filled with movement. Can you explain a bit about your process?
Heine: There are so many elements of the underwater environment that create a sense of movement. Flowing fabric and hair, and the suspension of gravity… Many of the Sirens paintings are life-size or larger, and most are underwater. Because I am trying to represent a world of my imagination, I choose to focus on realism in my art to make that world believable.
Preview: You have written that Sirens is your response to climate change. Why is it important to you to use your art to advocate for our world environment?
Heine: The Sirens painting series was born of protest against oil pipelines that threaten our coast, which is one of the last remaining unspoiled locations in the world… We have to speak not only for ourselves (because we have adult voices and votes), but for our children, who may not yet have either, and for our natural environment, which is given no voice at all.
Preview: The models for Sirens are your daughter, Sarah Heine, and your friend, Erica Enwright. Can you speak to the importance of family and friends in the creation of your work?
Heine: My models are my muse, and they get a kick out of seeing paintings of themselves appearing around the world and in various publications. Labyrinth … [will, as winner of the Haynes Galleries Award,] show this fall at the prestigious Haynes Galleries near Nashville. Labyrinth will travel for more than a year in a large show including other ARC winners, fi rst to the European Museum of Modern Art (MEAM) in Barcelona, then back to New York for a show at Sotheby’s. Right now, Sirens paintings are showing in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in Barcelona, Spain, and in museums and galleries in Denver, Santa Fe, Wausau (Wisconsin), Chicago, and here on the Island at the Peninsula Gallery, in Sidney.

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