Although Mark Trinham’s formal education is in graphic design, sculpture has also been a major part of his career. Even as a kid he loved “creating stuff and putting stuff together and tinkering” in his father’s workshop.
He started wood carving around age sixteen after having gotten into woodwork at school, and he hasn’t really stopped since.
Mark’s work mixes and merges modalities, blurring the line between art and craft. His pieces include the representative and the abstract, but also the functional, such as wooden furniture or stone garden walls.
Most of his sculpted works are public, but some are privately commissioned also. Again, the line is blurry; when a family commissions memorial seating and then places it in public, is that public art or not?
Most of Mark’s sculpture involves wood, though he frequently uses steel or stone as well. Other projects have used surfboards and wetsuits, or even literal rubbish he found on the beach. But where material comes from—its identity—is often as important as what it is made of.
When Mark wants to work with wood, he doesn’t just go down to the lumber yard and buy whatever. The wood he uses often has a story behind it, such as the picture frames he made out of old fence posts from his friend’s thousand-acre farm, Ghazapore, or the Nankeen night-heron he carved for his friend’s father’s birthday out of an old piece of turpentine peer pylon. To find the raw materials he needs, Mark has built up a network of suppliers and relies on word of mouth to find new people who might have what he’s looking for. Or, sometimes, it works the other way around and people who have material—wood from a demolition project, perhaps—come looking for Mark.
When someone asks Mark if he has a use for some interesting object, his answer is usually “yes.”
Public Art -Mark Trinham
Mark Trinham is also well-known for his public art, which he defines not only as art displayed in public but also art “created with the public in mind.”
That does not mean that literally everybody is going to like, or even understand, a given artwork. That’s ok with Mark, who sees variations in taste as part of the diversity of society.
But to produce one of these pieces, Mark (and his collaborators, see Romanis Trinham Collaboration below) begins with research—because they want to understand who they are producing the art for and how the land might communicate itself through the art.
“We source as much information as we can about the land, about the culture, about the community and also try and foresee what’s important for the future and that’s what goes into that big melting pot of ideas, of words, of shapes, colors, patterns. It’s the message we want to get across.”
Major public art projects include the mural at Bells Beach, the Beat Landscape at Lincoln Park in Geelong, and a group of interrelated pieces in Western Queensland.
Mark usually works on as many as 15 to 20 different projects (both public and otherwise) at the same time.
As he explains, “sometimes it gets manically crazy and other times it settles back down to just normal crazy.”
Most of those projects find their way to Mark through word-of-mouth. Early in his career he tendered a lot of pieces but the chance of getting work that way is always small. Today he prefers to let the work come to him.
Many of Mark’s clients are either community groups or developers. The developers don’t always understand the work on an artistic level, but they understand that a piece of public art can make a development seem much more distinctive and memorable. Many people find that art helps a new community develop its own soul.
Mark itself sees his art as very much a form of environmental education education—wildlife and the identity of place are recurring themes in his work.
As he says, “if you love wildlife then protecting it comes easy, it comes naturally.”
Romanis Trinham Collaboration
Mark’s chief partner on public art over the years has been Glenn Romanis, whom he met in the mid-1990’s when mutual friends invited both men to join the team creating the Torquay Sundial. Since then, the two have worked on many projects, both as a pair and as part of larger teams—although Mark still does some work on his own.
The Warrilly Public art pieces present interesting challenges, in part because of the shear size of many of them. A 30-meter-long mural might have to be assembled in sections indoors and then assembled on site—meaning that Mark can’t get far enough away from the huge mural to actually see the image until after it is complete. Or a project might require renting a crane, meaning that the artwork’s overhead is huge and even a small miscalculation in budgeting could be catastrophic.