When you look at things closely, new images and perceptions are formed. Under a microscope, a honeycomb is a golden array of hexagons, a spiderweb a mesmerising loop of strings and a leaf’s veins appear to be nature’s footprint. When your art is as delicate and fragile as leaf cutting, it takes great patience and passion to create something new. That’s what Mark H Hellicar, or mrk, has been doing since 2015. An architect by day and leaf cutting artist by night, Mark is bringing his creations to Nicosia in an upcoming exhibition.
“The exhibition is based on the idea of scale, of how one zooms in (and out) to get to grips with situations,” explains Mark. “The leaf cuttings are, by virtue of the canvas size, an example of the need to jump a couple of scales in order to begin to read the information within. It is then a world to get lost in, a setting, a script and a stage set within which to play. Many leaves are obvious, others not so. But they each have a setting to offer from out of which stories grow.”
It is these stories and tiny scenes that are formed on the surface of the leaves that Mark’s new exhibition at Archtube in Nicosia will feature. Opening on Wednesday and running until November 7, 1:266 depends greatly on light and shadow to showcase the artwork so its realisation at Archtube, an architecture, lighting and design studio seems appropriate.
“The premises, offered by Archtube for their first exhibition in their new location (Ermou Street 266),” says Mark, “have much to do with careful and appropriate lighting. As a result of the invitation from Archtube, the lighting design office lead by Dakis Sevastides, a couple of shadow casting devices are specially prepared for the event.” 1:266 focuses on light and shadow, hence the need for the shadow casting contraptions as they enable the idea of zooming into small worlds and being taken into the enlarged versions that the shadows cast.
The name of the exhibition is a reflection of Mark’s architectural background. “Standard scales for architecture are 1:100, 1:200, 1:50 and so on,” he explains. “The title is a neat translation of a larger world so that it can come to fit on a page or equivalent. In another sense,” he adds, “it is to do with the idea of drawing small so as to provide a little stage or setting within which a tale might be allowed to unfold. Leaf cutting pieces have a lot to do with zooming in, from that point of view.” 266 also happens to be the street number of the Archtube offices.
1:266 isn’t Mark’s first exhibition though. In 2019, along with curator and his artistic companion Thalia Efstathiou, Mark presented his leaf cutting art for the first time at Phytorio. That display held significance for the artist as it marked his transition from oil paintings to the first architectural leaf carvings. He since began working with more abstract pieces taking inspiration from an environmental statement he borrowed from the Australian Aborigines. “Tread lightly upon the earth,” was the saying. “The idea generally of this art form being ecological in itself, by virtue of the very material, has often been an encouraging factor to me,” says Mark. “It also encourages people to pay attention to nature and her detail much more, I have found.”
Now, Mark or mrk, is ready to show his leaf creations that he has worked on for a while. Holding the exhibition during the arrival of autumn could also be significant as Mark jokes it is his high season as an artist for finding more leaves to carve.
Working so closely with nature has allowed Mark to notice the details and learn from it, or her, as he likes to refer to nature. “The structure, the veins and the varied levels of brittle that leaves themselves have, remind you that there are rules and patterns that are hard to beat and break,” he says. “You may have a vision, I rarely do when I start working a leaf, but nature has one too, most definitely. It is better to listen and follow the understanding than to state the way things should be done.”
Solo exhibition by leaf cutting artist and architect, Mark H Hellicar. Curated by Thalia Efstathiou. October 27 – November 7. Archtube, 266 Ermou Street, Nicosia. Opening night: 7.30pm. Monday-Friday: 6pm-9pm and Saturday-Sunday: 4pm-9pm. Tel: 97-762139