ark Ogge is an accomplished painter and has been exhibited widely in Melbourne. He has received prestigious awards such as the Theadore Urbach Annual Award (1991) and the VCA's Fred Williams Award (1992).
Mark's forthcoming exhibition at Flinders Lane Gallery, opens today, with the opening night on Thursday 17th June, 5.30pm.
But perhaps his most pressing work has been as a campaigner in the climate change movement. Mark is an active and enthusiastic member of the not-for-profit, volunteer run organisation Beyond Zero Emissions.
Beyond Zero Emissions' aim is to facilitate the implementation of the social changes and technologies that will reduce the impacts of climate change and give our society and global ecosystems a chance of surviving into the future.
Glenn and Ronnie sat down for dinner with Mark to have a chat about his art and his activism.
ith painting, from when I was a kid I just always wanted to be an artist. I guess also, there was always a kind of conviction that I had something I wanted to express, but it's not always clear what that's been, so I've kind of discovered that through painting.
Originally I went to art school and I did very conceptual art work and I did quite well at art school. I got some prizes and it was successful, but over time it just didn't feel real. It felt sort of superficial, that conceptual sort of thing. So I sort threw all that out and started again. And the way I did that was I got my paints and went out into the landscape and just started painting from life... just anything that appealed to me.
It could be still lives, or landscapes, or anything, but very much just actually trying to capture what I saw... and I found that I kept going back to these certain themes over time. All sorts of different things like oil refineries at Altona, petrol stations, parched land, bridges, or often scenes like sunset over lakes, and things like that.
So it was varied subject matter, but I kept going back to similar stuff. And one thing that kept drawing me back was fairground imagery. I really like that. Whenever I saw a circus pull up in town, or the Royal Melbourne show, or Moomba, I was just really drawn to that as subject matter.
There was something visual about it that really appealed. It was the colours, the darkened light, the lights, but there was also something in the subject matter... the fairground was like a fascinating microcosm of life. You know, you've got all sorts of different people and its kind of anonymous, its got incredible atmosphere, and its quite an intense environment. That was subject matter that really appealed.
t's kind of like I have this image in the back of my mind, and it's really vague but I know that there's something there. It's kind of like there's St Anthony, or a horse or something... it's just an image that I know I want to paint and so I've got to try and find what that image is.
I start with doing really loose sketches in a sketch book, and then the next stage is when I settle on something that I think works, I do small oil sketches on panels. That allows me to be loose and spontaneous but it also allows me to work with colour and atmosphere to try and get an approximation of what I want.
And, if it works to that stage then I'll often go to a larger painting. Say for instance, with the St Francis painting, I did the sketch with a lion and an eagle and a horse etcetera. But then, when it comes to doing the bigger painting, because you need so much more information, I have to go and do heaps of studies of horses, and then lions, so I've got to go and find a stuffed lion, or go look at the lions at the zoo. I've even been to a taxidermist to draw the creatures, like the owls.
So I do lots and lots of studies of the different parts, and then I kind of put it all together. And even on the big canvases, even if I plan them as well as I can, I find they change a lot.... I'll paint a lion or something, then I'll decide it has to be moved three inches to the left or something, so there's a lot of correction, and a lot of trial and error. And then, the animals are surrounded by a landscape. So then I've got to go and do studies of plants as well. I don't stick slavishly to these studies, but it informs the work.
Working from life gives you the information you need to make it more compelling. When I actually paint, it's strange one, because, in a way I work compositionally.
I work in a fairly traditional way, in a sense. I work in a pretty chaotic way, which is impasto, wet in wet, working over and over things until I get it right. I'm quite a painterly painter, and my method is a bit chaotic, which is partly because there was no proper training when I was at art school, but it's also because I actually like to discover visual nuance and I find excitement in discovering this colour against this one, and this tone against this, so it's kind of like a chaos.
I don't work from photos, and I don't project...... well, I do use some photographic reference. But I generally try and minimise it, because the more you've got to make up, the more imaginative and original it is.
Whereas if I paint a lion, I want it to by my lion, they way I think a lion should look... not looking like the lion in Warsaw Zoo in 1973 that got photographed by someone and put up on google. And similarly, with landscape, if I just copied a landscape, it would be unsatisfying and unimaginative to me. I want to almost recreate the landscape.
Thematically it's very linked, but the subject matter is quite diverse. So, there's the fairground imagery, my usual iconography, but then I've gone off in different directions from there.
So, there's one painting of a roadhouse, and it's kind of a similar theme, because it's people in a really artificial environment, kind of a moment in time, the same theme as the fairground ones, but in a different setting. And it's quite realist.. But then, at the same time, I've gone in the other direction, where there are these much more imaginative works that sort of take off from the fairground a bit. For instance, there's a lion and a monkey outside of a circus tent... it's an imagined image, so it's a departure from the carnival thing into a much more imagined realm.
It sorted of started with the fairground animals, you know, lions and monkeys and stuff like that, but because I was doing the animals, I also got into some mythological paintings of the saints. One is St Francis, who I suppose represents mankind's connection to the natural world. One of my favourite paintings from the history of art is a Renaissance painting by Giovanni Bellini, 'The Ecstasy of St Francis'. It's a beautiful painting of St Francis, standing outside his cave, overlooking a beautiful landscape, with a town in the distance, and fields, and some animals. It's a really beautiful, optimistic painting, that really expresses man's connection to nature. It's bathed in a beautiful light and it's a really life-affirming painting.
I wanted to paint that painting, but making it 'now': painting our connection with the natural world as it is now. So my painting has still go St Francis but it's not the kind of beautiful optimistic painting of Bellini. It's a cleared, desolate, dry landscape that could be out on the Geelong Road somewhere... There's still animals and plants and life there, but it's kind of sad because it's about what we've lost. It doesn't make a direct statement on people or nature... but hopefully it conveys a feeling, in a potent way, about the sadness of what we're losing, and what's happened to the natural world. St Francis is just standing there amongst the animals and he's just one creature amongst a whole bunch of creatures. Whereas in the original St Francis story, it's like St Francis preaches to the animals, but I guess, we haven't got much to preach to the animals about at this stage, given the crazy mess we've made. So he sort of stands there as one creature amongst many I suppose. But hopefully I'm not expressing it in a didactic way, I guess it's more about trying to convey a feeling that I have rather than trying to make a political point.
So, to answer the original question about why I'm excited about the show.... I suppose it's been really liberating to be able to branch out into those mythological or biblical themes, because it's such powerful subject matter. The stories have such resonance.
Your Role As A Climate Campaigner Is Quite Different From Your Role As An Artist.
Bindarri have been working with BZE to form a graphics team which have been producing the Zero Carbon Australia Report as well as other communications materials.
We are always in need of some more help from creative people who can help communicate the climate change solutions that are being developed by the BZE team.
We are currently holding production days every Saturday in Melbourne to produce the ZCA report. See more information on our workshops
To get involved, email "publications
or phone 03 8383 2232
hen I first saw Matt Wright talk, I saw real potential in his group, Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). At that point BZE didn't really have any projects up and running. I guess it was mainly Matt doing the 3CR radio show at that time.
I could see he was smart and I could see he was someone with heaps of energy and loads of talent. He wasn't the only one in the group, there were others who were also impressive, but Matt was really the driver of BZE.
So, I thought, here is an organisation that takes climate change seriously when all the other NGO's just didn't get it, and more importantly, it was solutions focused. I felt that it was necessary to have a really positive plan on what to do. So, I thought I'd just like to try and leverage that in joining the group.
We don't really have positions per se in BZE, we just kind of contribute as we find a way. So, I decided to try and start a few initiatives. I started up some discussion group forums and getting in experts. I started doing talks, you know, getting out and pounding the pavement with BZE stuff.
I also started the Zero Carbon Australia Plan. That was largely, although not entirely, my initiative. I suppose for me, the Zero Carbon Australia Plan is really key because it's way to provide a coherent, credible vision of the way forward. It gives the whole organisation a basis from which to work from and I think it can be really effective in advocacy of climate change. But I think the interesting thing is, I think I saw it as a way of activating a particular demographic, people like engineers, and people who work in the power industry etc. and get them thinking along those lines.
So, I see my role as a creative one. I've been able to come up with ideas and run with them, and try to get them operating. But hopefully it's also activating other people's creativity, so that what I actually do is set a framework with an idea, and then other people jump in and use their creativity to make it work.
The Societal Themes Of Your Works Are Portrayed In Subtle Ways And Do Not Explore Climate Change Themes.
n terms of what I want to express in my art, it's not directly political. My actual interests are more psychological and/or symbolic I suppose. Something about the human condition in its broader sense.
Also, my interest is aesthetic. You can think of a subject matter, but the really hard thing about painting is putting it together so it looks good. That's the thing that really takes all the time. My interests in what I want to express is not really directly to do with climate change.
For years I was painting away, and concerned about climate change but didn't do anything. Then I finally decided to get involved. I just thought the most effective way I could get involved was to jump in there and help in actual direct campaigning.
I didn't really see much potential for me to make a contribution to solving climate change through making paintings about it. I just felt that by getting directly involved was the way to go, for me personally.
Which isn't to say that there's not a place for political art to encourage social change; it's just that for me they're two separate streams of my life.
guess the most rewarding thing for me is that we've been so successful. I mean, the projects we've started with BZE are having real impact and are drawing heaps of really smart people from all sorts of different professions: from engineers to designers to people within government - people with a huge range of skills.
The way that the organisation is structured is such that people can get into the organisation and use their creativity in ways that suit them most. If you ordinarily join a campaign for a big NGO or something, you'll probably end up rattling a tin or stamping envelopes or something. But people who get into BZE can have a campaign idea and then run with it, and we'll support you.
So, the most exciting thing for me is that it actually enables people to use their creativity in campaigning - it gives a platform for people's creativity. It's just really exciting. People respond so well to it. We give talks and people just sign up and want to help out. It's just a very dynamic and exciting campaign to be involved in.
he future is always uncertain for an artist [laughs]. It always depends on how the next show goes. What I hope for is to be able to just consolidate my career a bit, and be able to give myself the space to keep painting.
I can see real vistas opening up with the painting. I can see possibilities for doing ambitious and powerful paintings, so I just really want to follow up on that and just go with the artwork.
I'm also excited about getting back into BZE, after a brief hiatus while I've been getting this upcoming show ready... Just getting out there and making sure that people hear about the Zero Carbon Australia Plan and that it has a real impact on the political debate in Australia.