Rome, Madrid, Llandudno / by Mark Gubb

Things are ramping up now for my solo show at Mostyn in Llandudno next year. If you don’t know I’m having a show alongside the legendary Derek Boshier (Pop Artist, friend of David Bowie and Joe Strummer etc.) I’m also going to be co-curating Derek’s show to draw out connections between our works. Exciting times. (If you don’t know him, here’s an interview from 2017 to get you started... )

I’m heading out to Los Angeles next month to meet with Derek. Whilst I’m there I’m also hoping to get along to this... 


I met Michelle Gonzalez when I was in LA back in February, talking alongside her at a conference about punk at UCLA. Her paper was drawing comparisons between George Orwell and Joe Strummer. I love these kinds of coincidences and connections...

Anyway, last week I was in Rome and Madrid for research purposes. The work I’m developing takes Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’ as it’s starting point, so a visit to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were pretty essential. it was a great few days. A top tip I would offer is that if you’re visiting the Vatican, book your entry tickets online. You can just turn up on the day, but if you’ve booked it means you get to stroll past queues like this, that had already formed by 8.30am...


I took my fabrication-collaborator, Chris Gadd, with me too...


Chris is the extremely talented airbrush artist I worked with on my g39 show in 2016 and will be working with again on this project.  

The Sistine Chapel is extraordinary. Quite different to how I had imagined (though I’m not sure how) and ‘The Last Judgement’ is a thing of wonder. It’s really important just to go and stand in the presence of this stuff. I’ve seen it a thousand times in reproduction but had never really ‘seen’ it. It’s important to see it in context too. It’s not just a big religious painting on a wall - it’s surrounded by all the other paintings, and people, and priests, and sounds. Like anything in this world, it’s not enough to see it in reproduction, it’s all this other stuff that brings it to life and helps you understand it.  

We also went to visit the Rooms of St Ignatius, which is another must-see. A pretty basic room that’s been painted as one big optical illusion to give it the impression of being an architecturally grand chapel-type space.  


Every bit of what you see here is painted on a flat wall, designed to be at a proper perspective when viewed from the centre of the room. Really extraordinary stuff. 

So, after a couple of days in Rome it was on to Madrid for one day and a visit to the Prado. The main things to see there were Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ and Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. Again, truly extraordinary. 


Goya’s ‘Drowning Dog’ is one of my all-time favourite works of art and something I’m sure I’ll be returning to for many years to come. 

I was also reminded how Celtic Frost used a section of ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ for their ‘Into the Pandemonium’ album cover. A reason to love both things that little bit more. 


In the afteroon a quick visit to the Reina Sofía to see ‘Guernica’ rounded off the trip. Three days and three of the building blocks of art history.

So now I’m in to the process of sketching out designs for the new painting, trying to figure out how to process all this stuff and make it work for me without just creating a visual carrier bag of art history references. 

Then today was a 9 hour round-trip to Llandudno for a meeting about practicalities. Great to stand in those beautiful spaces again and begin to imagine how the shows will take shape in there. 


Next stop (later this month) in Portsmouth to catch Derek and his show at Jack’s House Gallery before he disappears back to LA.