Originally from San Fransisco, Soltero now lives in Governor’s Bay, near Christchurch, and works across all three of these fields. His work, which draws on the nature of cinema and also personal experience, incorporates a unique stencilling process in which almost all parts of the stencils, including the reverse sides and the stencils themselves, are used.
“I think of all three fields as extensions of drawing. For me, they’re all manifestations of visual thinking; ways of making images,” Soltero explains.
“A lot of my work starts off with an image that begins in my mind or is triggered by some fragment of an image I’ve seen. I might take a drawing from a sketch book and put it together with a digital image so I can see what the two suggest together, or I might begin with a digital drawing and print it out before beginning to cut into it. Considering the relationship I had with printmaking and photography, it’s pretty funny that my work has come to focus so much on filmic and commercial image making processes.”
In a recent series, titled ‘History is Cinematic’, Soltero focused on the interiors of cinemas as “containers of images, history and memory”. The completed body of work produced large-scale images, some up to six metres wide, and provided a starting point for his current series, ‘Fragments of Memory’.
In this body of work, paintings and monoprints are created on a variety of substrates including wool blankets, which are chosen for their histories of care and protection and the concept of family. The works, which incorporate actual fragments of the previous series, reflect a turbulent period of Soltero’s life arising from the disintegration of his family and other tumultuous events in the late 1970s.
“In the 24-month period that began with the summer of 1977, my parents began an eight year divorce, we moved several times, the mayor and now-famous city counsellor Harvey Milk were assassinated, and the Jonestown Massacre took place. All of these events were in very close view, and, for me, this period is when image became synonymous with projection. Coincidentally, at the beginning of that summer, I had just become aware that I wanted to be an artist, even although I had no idea what that meant.”
Counterbalancing the seemingly endless options provided from working across three artistic fields, Soltero limits himself to a colour palette that is almost exclusively black and white.
“Both black and white have a long and rich history across many cultures and in Western Art in general,” says Soltero.
A common practice throughout the history of art across all mediums, a restricted colour palette provides artists with the opportunity to reduce visual noise and focus on the development of particular ideas and procedures.
“You can look back through the history of a given artists’ work and see periods where artists have reduced what they were doing before springing into a new body of work. The Cubists initially limited their colour palette. Pollock limited his colour palette at the beginning of his drip series. Later, after he’d reached a zenith, he again went back to black and white to try and work out where he was going next. You can look at more contemporary examples and see the same thing."
The work of Kara Walker, who initially became known for large black paper silhouettes installed on the walls of galleries and museums, is a major inspiration for Soltero.
“She’s such a power-house of talent. I love the fact that there’s this power in the scale of what she’s doing while at the same time there’s a delicateness and fragility in the medium.”
Alongside a restricted palette, the process of stencilling is in itself restrictive but also highly rewarding.
“The reveal, when you lift a stencil after having painted over it, is probably the moment of greatest joy - or total frustration - in my process.”
The reveal, when you lift a stencil after having painted over it, is probably the moment of greatest joy - or total frustration - in my process.”
Stencilling also brings about opportunities for chance and accident.
“When I lay the stencils out for a painting. I can cut as accurately as a machine and I can map out the placement of each section but ultimately they migrate and do their own thing.”
“The concept of control is somewhat contradictory just like black and white appear to provide clarity and a kind of fixed assurance but also together they make grey, which is like the perfect analogy to imprecision.”
Soltero intends to continue working at a large scale and is interested in exploring what can be achieved with instillations.
“I think about paintings that hang in the space rather than on the wall. I’m interested in what experiences might occur between the image in the painting and the physicality of the image as a material object located in space. In this way there might be an interaction between the visual referents to space and time in the image, and the referents manifested by physical experience of the material in its location.”
“In my work I think about the way we see objects and events in our immediate surroundings, and how we think about these objects and events. For example we might reflect on where we just were an hour ago, and we’re able to project ourselves mentally to another space and time. We can see this space and time and think of the sounds and visual experiences we had there and then while we’re here and now. Our minds are always processing in this manner. I try to deal with an experience of space that takes into account this wide range of things we probably all think about but perhaps don’t often have the opportunity to reflect on.”
You can see more of Solteros work on his website, marksoltero.com.
Images courtesy of