Growing up in Leicester, my family would make occasional shopping trips to Birmingham but the Black Country remained relatively undiscovered. Now, all these years later, the area feels both familiar and obscure, which allows me to maintain a certain distance. This is useful in helping me make my work here – a mix of static, large format urban landscapes and videos of the apparently thriving beauty industry. The Black Country seems to have been hit very hard by the recession. Yet, in spite of this bleak backdrop, the spirit of the people I’ve met – their warm welcome, their openness – is tangible and remarkable.
In March 2011, we invited Mark to make work that explores the social landscape of the Black Country through photography and film. Mark produces beautifully detailed landscapes that draw you in, finding beauty in what is forgotten and in people’s continued efforts to make the best out of what they have.
Mark has created a series of urban landscapes in response to his experience of the Black Country, an area hit particularly hard by the economic recession. While first impressions of these photographs might confirm this downturn in fortunes, on further viewing they reveal the splendour of the forgotten and the everyday and a quiet yet simmering beauty begins to emerge.
A further series of photographs shows elegant footwear seen from pavement level, set against a backdrop of grey concrete and crumbling brick, while a sound installation turned the names used to describe the colours of make-up and tattooist’s dyes into a romantic, mantra-like poem.
During his visits to the region, Mark noticed an array of thriving beauty salons and gentlemen’s clubs peppering local shopping arcades. Investigating this further, he discovered a number of historical precedents for the growth of beauty and sex industries in times of austerity. This led to a series of short films made in salons, tattoo parlours and nightclubs.
These links take you directly to the films on Mark’s Vimeo channel:
Spray tan: http://vimeo.com/57938880
Pole dancer: http://vimeo.com/57929384
Tatoo / Piercings: http://vimeo.com/57204539
Fish pedicure: http://vimeo.com/57066717
Wobble away: http://vimeo.com/49259327
Multistory has produced a beautiful ‘magazine’ to showcase some of the work Mark has created. Signed and unsigned copies are available to purchase from our shop.
A major exhibition of Mark Power’s Black Country Stories took place at The New Art Gallery Walsall from 20 July 2012 to 15 September 2012.
Mark has collated a video montage of stills, video and audio used in the exhibition.