Mark Mitchell’s porcelain vessels are anything but static; they embody a continual push and pull between form and surface. The first thing we see when encountering the artist’s works is their airy volume, which seems to push the boundaries of the delicate medium. The second is Mitchell’s use of detailed pattern both to emphasise and subvert the forms he has made.
The perceived fragility of the medium is complemented by Mitchell’s considered use of colour. Matte blues and greens filter into one another to create softly textured surfaces that absorb light rather than refract it. Gold or silver elements are used judiciously to emphasise this difference and to accentuate shape. From a distance, works that seem at first to sport hard-edged patterns reveal subtle use of crackled glazing, the irregularity of which softens the dominance of the geometric designs.
There is always a balanced tension between Mitchell’s surface designs and the expansiveness of the vessel forms. Tanekaha shows the porcelain is caught between resisting and giving into the artist’s attempts to divide it into precisely measured units; its outward swell seems only just held in check by a uniform net of lines. It is a measure of Mitchell’s skill that the work is perfectly poised between the two opposing elements. Other black and white pieces work in a similar way, drawing upon the visual effects of op-art patterning to blur the division between imagined and actual depth, using one as a control over the other.
The stepped edges of Frequency, Slant, and School Road Track however, show that Mitchell is happy to allow surface decoration primacy over form on occasion. By avoiding cutting through repeats, the patterns push up and away from the main body of the vessel, cutting into space as if of their own volition. A sense of continual movement is especially noticeable in the stepped edges of Frequency and School Road Track, as they follow sloping vertical segments that gently wind around the belly of each work.