Only From Leftfield

Mark Lewington is a mercurial chap, when it comes to the arts. He flits from the functional to the abstract, recycled sculpture to screen printing and stenciling, graphic sign writing to clothing design. He’s also a drummer, a DJ who loves his vinyl and a mad collector of vintage skateboards, trikes, bikes and the likes. You can’t get away from lists with Mark, but whatever he’s up to, he’s doing it with originality and his trademark, wicked humour.

His partner, Tabea, and their two small children are away visiting family in Germany when we visit and his whopping new shed is open to the chilly sunshine. His collected and created treasures emerge from storage, adorn walls and shelves to inspire him afresh.

Mark’s a local boy who went to Mahurangi College. When did he realise he was arty? “Not at school,” he says. “I was pretty good at maths and science, and I just assumed I’d become an electrical engineer like my dad.” He duly embarked on a New Zealand Certificate of Engineering; he excelled and was awarded a $2K scholarship for further study.

“Yeah… turned out engineering wasn’t my thing,” he admits. “I spent the money on snowboarding”. He dropped out and worked at Signmasters, in Warkworth, where he’d done part-time holiday work. A couple of years of work versus snowboarding followed (with the snow usually winning) until he went to a signwriters expo and wound up with a job in a plastic fabrication company, learning the ropes as a signwriter and CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine operator.

“These were great skills to acquire,” Mark says. “They opened the door to all the amazing possibilities of using industrial materials with technology, and shaped much of what I do now.” A few years later in 2003, Mark began his own business, Only Concepts, in Matakana. 

He has a large, local, client base for his branding and signage, including the Sawmill Brewery, the Vivian Gallery and Skywork Helicopters and his screen-printed designs are legendary (his latest t-shirt print blends a seagull and pony to create a ‘seahorse’). His art, often featuring chickens (he’s very fond of them), has been stenciled onto recycled ironing boards, steel shelving and fridges. Concrete toilet roll holders, router-cut shelving or chopping boards inset with vintage toys in acrylic windows, are a few of his many ideas for functional art.

He’s now back to an old favourite. “I’ve been collecting portraits for years. I live with them for a while, waiting for their alter egos to reveal themselves, then paint in a mask, helmet, balaclava or headpiece that’ll work for them.” For Mark, this series is about getting back to anonymity in a world of facial recognition. “These works have spent decades in the public eye... masking them gives them back their mystery, their freedom. It also makes my audience smile, which is definitely one of my main goals.” 

We can’t wait to see what this innovative creative comes up with next. Mark grins, “I’m always thinking.”

ArtJunction Mag