Interview: Mark Renner

The Brief

The Brief - MR.png

Mark Renner is a musician and visual artist. Few Traces, a compilation album of musical compositions that Renner recorded between 1982 and 1990, will be released on RVNG Intl. on February 16th, 2018. As well as showcasing Renner’s songwriting, which draws from influences including Yellow Magic Orchestra and early Ultravox, the album includes instrumental pieces that were originally composed to accompany his painting exhibitions. A companion documentary directed by Maia Stern, called Few Places, will also be released in 2018.

Which self-portrait by a female artist would you recommend?
Käthe Kollwitz’s self-portraits in charcoal, her lithographic work, and her woodcuts. Reading her diary and letters years ago was revelatory in confirming the depths of her suffering, longing, and sorrow.

Which visual artwork would you recommend?
Old Willie, a Village Worthy
, a painting by James Guthrie. It is always a riveting experience to stand face to face with this canvas. The eyes of his subject reflect the strain of harsh agrarian living. Guthrie had an unequalled grasp of diffused light and an obvious empathy for those he captured in his works.

Which animated film would you recommend?
The Wrong Trousers
, directed by Nick Park. Park has an impeccable eye for nostalgic detail and deep appreciation for the vanishing eccentricities on the quieter side of living.

Which film would you recommend?
Once Upon a Time in America, directed by Sergio Leone. Epic in vision and execution, confounding, and perhaps Ennio Morricone’s finest score.

Which books about travelling would you recommend?
The Journals of David Livingstone. Missionary heart, a naturalist’s eye, fierce determination, intrepid explorer, and an early pillar for the abolitionist movement

Which electronic album would you recommend?
Faulty Toned Radio
by The Boats. Always experimental and inventive. Subtle, stimulating atmospheres for working or thinking. Their elusive releases are well worth seeking out.

Which folk song would you recommend?
‘Poortoun’ by Jackie Leven. It is an accurate picture of post- industrial Scotland and a pervasive hopelessness that has tempered the lives of many in its vanishing opportunities.

Which classical composition would you recommend?
Symphony No. 5
by Gustav Mahler. The Adagietto fourth movement has always been a submerging and surrendering listen that never fails to transport.


The following questions relate to our Perspectives column, in which two writers respond to an artwork that they are experiencing for the first time.

How does an artist's anonymity affect their art?
Ideally a fidelity to one’s vision would remain steadfast to the true, through forests of ridicule or obscurity. But hunger for fame, riches, or acceptance can dilute one’s output.

States of the Arts

The following questions relate to our States of the Arts column, for which each article includes four artworks that share an association with a single nation or territory.

Which Belgian artwork would you recommend?
Story Without Words, a book of woodcut prints by Frans Masereel. An undisputed master of the woodcut with a strong grasp of the human struggle.

Which Norwegian artwork would you recommend?
My Struggle
, a series of autobiographical novels by Karl Ove Knausgård. Meticulous chronicles of every internal thought and observation arriving and departing.

The art of discovery

The following questions relate to Silent Frame’s aim to celebrate the art of discovery.

For you, is artistic discovery a private or shared experience?
More often than not, it is a solitary pursuit. The hunt for flowers among the midden can be subjective and long…

What question would you like to ask other Silent Frame interviewees?
What is the wisest (or most regrettable) decision you have made in pursuit of your art?

More to discover

Mark Renner: Visit the artist’s website here and listen to his music on his Bandcamp page here. Watch the video for ‘Half A Heart’ and the trailer for Few Places.

Today’s recommendations: Käthe Kollwitz (museum website), Old Willie, a Village Worthy (image), The Wrong Trousers (excerpt), Once Upon a Time in America (trailer), The Journals of David Livingstone (excerpt), Faulty Toned Radio (album), ‘Poortoun’ (song), Symphony No. 5 (performance of the Adagietto), Story Without Words (excerpt), My Struggle (excerpt).

Also on Silent Frame