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The swank space of Pentimenti Gallery, Phidelphia were flooded with viewers. The usual hushed silence of this modern sanctuary of contemporary art was broken. Audience were staring at a series of beautiful, alluring purses on display at the gallery in rapt attention. No, these are not the bejewelled designer Hermès, Prada or Fendi bags. Its subsistence is dependent on metres of carefully cut and strategically placed packing tapes. ‘It is, on the other hand, a very beautiful bag,’ a series crafted by Mark Khaisman and neatly displayed in lightboxes to an astounding effect.

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Early Days

Mark Khaisman’s journey on earth started from 1958, Kiev. Ukraine. Art managed engaging Mark’s attention early in his life. He duly completed his MA from Moscow Architectural Institute, Moscow, Russia in 1982. During his studies he participated in a number of concept based architectural competition. At World Architectural Biennale ‘The New Urban Space,’ 1980, Bulgaria, he received second prize. UNESCO arranged ‘Rehabilitation of a Decayed Urban Environment,’ 1982, Poland, saw him win third prize. However, the stagnating scene of Soviet architecture was not enough in holding Mark’s interest for long.

Desperately searching for a meaningful creative outlet Mark started practising his hand in animation. He became a member of State Animation Studio and for the greater part of a decade (1983 – 1989) worked as an art director for seven puppet animation movies. At International Animation Film Festival, 1988, Paris he became the recipient of the Best Art Director Prize. He also teamed up with Lev Evzovitch who later on formed art group AES+F.

Emigration to US

1989 saw Mark Khaisman shifting his base to US. He commenced working as a stained glass artist and architect. Very briefly he also took up a teaching assignment in 1990 as he conducted Egg Tempera Painting Class in Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, US. Mark was still in search of his own creative voice and none of the artistic projects he took up seemed to fulfil the void he felt inside of him. During this era of mental unrest one day, as he was busy in his studio, he observed how the way the tape marking designs on a stained–glass work–in–progress created an array of gradients. Intrigued, he looked closer. And an idea was born.

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The Tapework Artist

It took Mark a while to make his new found love a financially viable proposition. He continued to latch on his daytime job for a while that would help him sustain economically and also fulfil his obligations as a husband and father. He had his artwork showcased in Main Line Art Center and then in Fleisher / Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia, 2005.

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Going Places

Mark Khaisman received the CFEVA Fellowship, 2006 – 2007. His reputation was travelling faster than he even he could have anticipated. His work was exhibited in various galleries of Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Berlin, Strasbourg, Madrid, London, Istanbul and very recently Seoul in Korea. His last five solo exhibitions except the one in Pentimenti Gallery were Volta NY 2012, Solo Project Fair for Contemporary Art, New York, NY, ‘Likeness Of a Likeness’, Gallery at Penn College, 2011, Williamsport, PA, ‘From Russia With Love’, Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia, PA and ‘As If It’s Real’, Ampersand Foundation PF, Barcelona, Spain, 2010 and ‘Assuming a Posture’, Urban Outfitters Inc, Philadelphia, PA, 2009. The artist’s work was also on display at Philadelphia International Airport, 2009. What a wonderful treat for weary travellers!

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Awards

NYF 2009 Print Bronze

D&AD Awards 2009 Winner in Illustration

CLIO Awards 2009 Print Bronze

Red Dot Design Award 2008 Best of the Best

EPICA Awards 2008 Press & Poster Silver

Cannes Lions 2008 Design Silver

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Film Noir & Mark Khaisman

Mark became aware of the Film Noir movement after his immigration to US. Dealing with the duality of existence, the light and the shadow is a philosophy that Mark relates to the movement when it comes to defining his work. A shared space in urban jungle where both the viewers and protagonists of the story find their time interlaced with the seeming coincidences and subtleties are hallmark of film noir according to the artist. His pieces recurrently deal with such theme as is evident from ‘Killer’s Kiss’, ‘Girl with Earring’, ‘I shouldn’t have picked up that wallet’ to name a few.

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Process

Mark Khaisman provides a detailed description of the process he follows on creating his artwork in his site, http://www.khaismanstudio.com/.

‘Manipulating light is the very core of my technique I play on two properties of light known for centuries:

1. Eye perceives something as light only next to the dark, and the opposite, the dark is the dark only depending on how much light is around.

2. Light has a well–known effect of dispersing in geometrical cones, so that the greater the distance from the light opening the larger it seems. I play with the size of openings, placing the lighter and smaller ones next to the wider and darker ones to create a contrast.’

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Behind the Mask

Mark prefers listening to audio books while busy at work. His taste in the subject varies with time starting from politics to history or art history. From classical to youthful rock his choice in music is also diverse. He even enjoys and celebrates the power of ‘silence’. He savours good wine, good cheese, good bread with good butter and good apple.

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Epilogue

 

The creative genius in Mark dares walking through the posh corridors of Hollywood, travelling back and forth in time between the period of Louis XV (The Chair Series) and modern day (Birkin Bag) with only few pieces of translucent brown tape, a scissor and images in his mind. Years ago a movement that commenced in Italy, Arte Povera, finds another proponent in Mark Khaisman who in using humble tape as a medium of artistic creation once again proves, ‘the medium is the message.’

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