Kat Murrell
Visual Art

The Continental Ramblings of Mark Mulhern

The Milwaukee painter, now exhibited at Tory Folliard Gallery, offers evocative, painterly images often set in Europe.

By - Oct 3rd, 2014 01:23 pm
Mark Mulhern, Brocante Montsoreau Drizzle. Courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery.

Mark Mulhern, Brocante Montsoreau Drizzle. Courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery.

Mark Mulhern has a long and distinguished career as a painter. The Wisconsin native’s work can be found in international collections in Paris and Prague, and he is represented locally at Tory Folliard Gallery, which is now hosting an exhibition of his recent work. Mulhern’s often monumental canvases are typically loose, flowing, and deeply evocative of atmospheric days in open air markets and European style plazas.

Mulhern notes that his attention is drawn to a feeling of temporarily, fleeting moments where he captures subtle gestures and expressions through flickering brushwork. This is one of the most engaging aspects of his style, as he skillfully evokes passersby at a vintage market, lingering shoppers pursuing random items — bright pink chairs or old typewriters — their faces obscured, but their body language expressing a languid pleasure like that of a leisurely Saturday morning. His extremely tilted perspective, where three-dimensionality is abandoned in favor of a sense of space where things further away are placed higher on the canvas, adds a slightly unreal sense as though we the viewer are hovering above everything like omniscient voyeurs.

Some of the most poetic visuals are in Brocante Montsoreau Drizzle, where a sparse crowd of figures stand within the canvas, glazed over by soft edges as through seen through a watery window pane. The edges of the picture trail off mysteriously into fog and shadows. Mulhern also shows works on paper and some smaller oil paintings that recall objects perhaps seen at the vintage markets appearing in other works. There is a studied naiveté in a number of these, such as the images of off-kilter chair legs or sketchy coffee pots. Though a highly skilled artist, Mulhern enjoys a childlike openness and exploration in these studies.

Cathy Martin, Sundown. Courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery.

Cathy Martin, Sundown. Courtesy Tory Folliard Gallery.

While Mulhern’s work presents an exploration of varied approaches, the paintings on view by Cathy Martin in her exhibition This and That represent a tour-de-force of her skill. Upon entering the small east gallery off the main room at Folliard, you might think you are viewing photographs from a distance. Martin’s paintings are that acute; she has an exceptional talent for capturing light, atmosphere, and minute detail of landscapes. In this selection of works, she gravitates toward picturesque images of the countryside, with autumnal fields and rural houses and barns in glorious summer sunlight. The subjects are familiar Midwestern scenes, reflecting Martin’s own experience as a farmer. Most remarkable is that Cathy Martin does not have formal training, but handles her work with a skill, precision, and sensitivity that places her firmly in the tradition of the strongest representational painters.

Mark Mulhern: New Works and Cathy Martin: This and That continue through October 11 at Tory Folliard Gallery (233 N. Milwaukee Street).

Mark Mulhern: New Works Gallery

Cathy Martin: This and That Gallery


This Weekend

Saturday, October 4

Paul Cowan: Some Rehearsals opens this Sunday at Green Gallery.

Paul Cowan: Some Rehearsals opens this Sunday at Green Gallery.

Riverwest Art Walk

The Riverwest Artists Association hosts its annual open house of galleries and studios, punctuated by an art party on Saturday night at the Jazz Gallery. The Nut Factory and the Toy Factory are two venues added to the tour this year, but for a full roster of venues visit Jazz Gallery (926 E. Center Street), Riverwest Food Co-op (733 E. Clarke Street), or ArtBar (722 E. Burleigh Street) for a map and tickets ($5 adults, $3 students). The tour runs from noon to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, October 5

Paul Cowan: Some Rehearsals

Green Gallery

1500 N. Farwell Avenue

Opening reception 5-8pm

Artist Paul Cowan, who leans toward minimalism, will open this new exhibition at the Green Gallery with a reception this Sunday. Cowan, currently based in Chicago, is a 2007 graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, who went on to complete his MFA at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

2 thoughts on “Visual Art: The Continental Ramblings of Mark Mulhern”

  1. Anonymous says:

    These images do evoke ghostly and muted emotions, and memory, and probably many subconscious associations for everyone who view them. Thanks for this review!

  2. Iris Kapil says:

    We have one of Mark Mulhern’s early prints, The Choir, from the late 1970s when he was studying in a Paris studio. I heard it said he was the best student they had had in years. Jill Richards, his wife, was also a talented young artist. She painted on silk, but unfortunately, I have nothing of her work.

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