Mark Williams is a graphic artist, lecturer, author and curator.
He combines lecturing Illustration at Hull School of Art and Design (HSAD) with freelance practice and the running of the Museum Of Club Culture (http://www.museumofclubculture.com) in Hull city centre’s cultural renaissance quarter, Humber Street. He is also on the board of the city’s annual festival of the arts, the Freedom Festival.
He has worked as a freelance graphic artist all over the world, including alongside Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.
The Museum Of Club Culture is the world’s only exhibition space of its type. Mark, an alumnus of Hull School of Art and Design (1979-82), shows his own photographs, screenprints and illustrations, as well as work by students and guest artists. Guest speakers hosted by the museum include Sue Tilley, Lucien Freud’s muse
Every cult and sub-cult falls under the museum’s spotlight. And Mark – also known as Mark Wigan, thanks to his love for the northern soul club nights at Wigan Casino – captured them for posterity in Warhol-esque Polaroids taken while working as a roving reporter and all-round sub-culture vulture for i-D magazine and the NME. His detailed paintings and drawings have defined club culture since the 1980s. His background also includes producing nightclubs, taking bands and DJs on clubbing tours and designing album sleeves for the bands he met on the circuit.
Recent exhibitions include Memorabilia: Part 2, which put Hull’s nightclubs in the spotlight to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Welly club. http://www.giveitsomewelly.com/
“Our research and consultancy is vital for HSAD to move forward as an art school,” says Mark. “As are the links we create with enterprise. As a lecturer, it is very important for your students to see your work as current and public.”
Students work on collaborative projects with the Museum Of Club Culture, such as Text Me Up with artist Tracey Moberly. They also work with Hull’s museums service on exhibitions at the Ferens Art Gallery and with the University of Hull on its Far East Asia collection.
Mark’s current personal projects include an exhibition of his own illustrations for Diesel Jeans; art directing and set designing for a hip-hop puppetry play in Liverpool, Melody Loses Her Mojo, and writing.
He has written a series of five books the Basics Illustration Series (Ava Publishing), aimed at undergraduates featuring a global who’s who of illustrators and graphic artists. He is currently researching the sixth.
He describes the series as “a contemporary graphic arts school in book form” and says work by HSAD students and members of staff is being considered for the sixth book.
“I’m re-evaluating the role of the arts curator and how that impacts on teaching in art schools,” he adds. “It’s a rethinking of the art school for the 21st century.”
The sixth book, a second edition of Basics Illustration: Thinking Visually is due to be published by Bloomsbury in 2014.
In the 1980s, Mark was commissioned by Andy Warhol. The pop artist had seen Mark’s work – a four-storey high mural – in London’s Limelight Club and asked him to paint the New York venue of the same name. Warhol also introduced him to other influential artists, including Keith Haring. In the late 1980s, Mark’s work could be seen everywhere from nightclubs, to acid house record sleeves for the likes of A Guy Called Gerald and Frankie Bones, music video animations, T-shirts and flyers.
Mark then spent many years working as a freelance graphic artist in New York, London and Tokyo and can be seen in public and private collections in Tokyo and Madrid. Clients included NHK, Fuji TV, BBC, Panasonic, i-D magazine, Elle, New Musical Express, Deviant Records and Sony Music. In Japan, projects included set designs for shows and animated title sequences for television companies and music videos. A company he set up that licensed his designs for different products, such as futons and textiles, led to the opening of a chain of shops.
Before returning to his artistic roots at Queens Gardens, Mark lectured at Tokyo University, Camberwell College of Art and Salford University. Other academic work includes a role as external examiner at Birmingham City University, the University of Derby and international courses in Thailand, Hong Kong and India.
“I worked for 13-14 years before going into teaching,” he says. “It’s good for educating your students because you have links with people in the business. Here in Hull, graduates from HSAD’S Illustration course are now illustrating for Vogue, Observer, Penguin and Dorling-Kindersley. Our graduates are getting a good reputation with employers. I teach them about copyright, how to promote themselves and online portfolios. I try to challenge and inspire my students, encouraging them to follow their own paths, develop a personal visual language and build the confidence and abilities necessary for professional life.”
So armed, the most talented and adaptable Illustration graduates can play a vital role in the global cultural landscape, says Mark:
“Illustration is constantly evolving. It is not graphic design nor fine art, it sits between the two and operates between disciplines, this always makes it difficult to classify”.
“Often described as graphic art or commercial art, it is a powerful and direct contemporary form of visual communication. Illustration illuminates all kinds of subject matter and makes sense of the world by conveying messages through a myriad of visual languages and contexts.”
To see examples of Mark’s work or to find out more, visit: http://www.wigansworld.com
…or follow him on Twitter