Using sound as an inspiration for his visual art, Mark Rushton’s “ambient abstract” paintings display an emphasis on tone, texture, and atmosphere – very similar to the music he creates.
Inspired by aspects of painters Fairfield Porter, Pierre Bonnard, and Philip Hershberger, but also influenced by musicians as broadly as Bud Powell, Harold Budd, Fennesz, King Tubby, or Ryuichi Sakamoto, along with Rushton’s own original recordings, he attempts to merge the sound and the visual when producing each art independently. When creating his works, he asks questions such as “What does this painting sound like?” or “What would this audio recording look like as a painting?”
As a self-described “emerging professional artist” who has been painting since the late 1980s, Rushton took drawing and painting classes at the University of Iowa and then transferred to the Kansas City Art Institute in the early 90s as a painting major.
While attending school, he took an evening job working in IT at a mutual fund company. He excelled in the position, and enjoyed the office’s extensive art collection, which included paintings by Hershberger. He decided to accept a full-time position, and dropped out of art school. Software testing became his adult career. He married, raised two daughters, and currently lives in Eastern Iowa.
In the early 2000s, Rushton starting making ambient music, sound collages, and nature recordings, and began releasing them worldwide in 2004. This music was initially created for his own personal listening while at work, but commercial distribution services allowed him to offer it through music download and streaming services.
Throughout the years, he continued to paint, occasionally showing new pieces in public exhibitions, and refining his style while filling up the walls of his house, and intriguing guests who didn’t know he painted.
Around 2017, Rushton started producing new paintings at a much faster rate, and he became serious about taking the necessary steps to develop a career as a professional artist.
Rushton works with acrylics; mostly on stretched canvases with occasional explorations using a type of synthetic paper. Application of paint is usually done thinly, in multiple sessions, until the desired image emerges.
Rushton’s favorite art quote, which he has used since the early 1990s as an artistic philosophical inspiration, is by painter and critic Fairfield Porter:
“When I paint, I think that what would satisfy me is to express what Bonnard said Renoir told him: make everything more beautiful.”