Line of Departure
Last year as Mark Coombs left Bombay he suggestively placed painted marine ply boards and stone sheets among the roads and debris of Worli outside his home, without informing friends - more interested in the passer-by's intrigue. Before returning to Bombay, he spent some months in Boars Hill, a village skirting Oxford, in the house in which the poets Robert Graves and WB Yeats had sometime lived. Here he made a film about the artist Paul Nash who lived down the road, and painted most of his landscapes there. He has a practice that includes impressionist landscapes under imagined names, leaving painted canvases on the streets to turn into found objects, to be inherited or simply destroyed under the vagaries of weather. These gestures satirically humour much of contemporary art practice.
Since he can remember, he had always put some of his own work into his father's exhibitions. They began showing together when Mark was thirteen. On the road they would pack up the car and travel across the country to put up his father's exhibitions or 'talks', which were "excruciatingly embarrassing for the first forty minutes, as little happened as his father spoke loosely about art and his own life, but ending in euphoria as the painting came together brilliantly all of a sudden".
On an invitation by Geoff Almond, Mark shifted to Brussels to join the Euro Visual Research Group in 1998, with Joe Schlar. The three made public art projects that drew inspiration from the history of the spaces and the communities they inhabited - for a year in a bank, and then in the national union building, where they would map the history and the lives of the people living there, using films, drawings and photography. Their original intent was to petition the European Parliament on issues such as an Artists Resale Rights and artist contractual issues, in the public realm. They started an artist union and joined their protests , documenting them on their SVHS camera.
Some years ago he made a film in Hasan Abdal, a historic town outside Islamabad, in a glass factory, about the process of glass making. The works made in Bombay are visual commentaries of compared urbanisms, discussing a history of metropolitan living in reference to the artist's life in London. A British artist, he responds to the history of production within a city and the continuous decline of things being made in favour of being retailed. Taking sculptural walks, altering things in the street, subverted road signs come to allocate space for private parking. Resting against walls, wooden planks with painted arrows exist between disfiguring graffiti and a gallery painting, which could at any moment be picked up, and begin separate journeys.
Mark ends his year in Bombay with a line taped onto the walls of Clark House. Along it, he arranges his works of grids calibrate light streaming into his apartment opposite Colaba Market, capricious portraits of his camera, and intricately detailed paintings of grey cratered surfaces sculpted and textured by imagined effects of the elements. The draftsman's plumb-line is slowly inhabited by drawings which he continues to produce in response to the spaces of Clark House, making the exhibition dynamic and changing, till the day he leaves, tangibly marking his geographical transition, along a timeline.