San Francisco native and San Diego based visual artist, Mark Bryce’s work is derived from the formal traditions of American painting. As a painter, Bryce pursues an open exploration of painting and uses the fundamental elements—of paint and wood panel—to skillfully investigate contemporary ideas and ideologies.
Deeply aware of the historical precedents of realist painting, having studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, he sometimes evokes images and memories, while at other times uses the elements of painting to its own end. Inherent throughout his work over the past four decades are issues of perception and understanding.
The son of an American educator, renaissance writer-pianist-painter, Bryce was surrounded by the visual and performing arts from an early age. He studied at the Philadelphia College of Art and then in the fall of 1972, he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Art for a four-year course of study. Cast and life drawing, materials and techniques and classical painting filled the next four years. Bryce studied painting with Ben Kamahira, Arthur Decosta, Walter Steumpfig and Julian Levy and attended lectures by many of the leading artists of the day.
Early in his career he experimented with the depiction of light and treatment of composition. Living in West Chester, Pennsylvania, he won a group of prizes and was offered an exhibition at the prestigious Marion Locks Gallery in Philadelphia at the tender age of 23. Marion Locks was there after his principle dealer for some 12 years. He pursued at that time, a cool crisp-somewhat photographic style of painting, rebelling against the open brushwork traditions of the Academy. Urban scenes imbued with a rather narrative social perspective were among his earliest subject matter. The years from the early eighties forward saw Bryce’s work move into a softer, more ethereal realm. He found his work leaning to a spare, mystically iconic and elegant aesthetic. At this time, he also began to investigate and represent through the medium of painting the dichotomous and simultaneous perceptions of reality that exist in and around our world stage. His study of meditation and the pursuit of metaphysical dynamics were the catalyst to this direction. However as can be seen throughout his career and life, he is enthralled by the worldliness of the human condition.
From the early to mid eighties the work became softer…less cool. The technique was open and less constrained yet still detailed, generally painted in a progressively layered technique grounded in Netherlandish painting of the 17th century. Yet ever the Academy graduate he was, and is clearly still influenced by the 19th century American tradition. In the early eighties, he came into more intimate contact with the Chadds Ford group of painters, all of whom were centered on Andrew Wyeth and family.
While delighted to enjoy the variety of famous and infamous characters that came through this artistic area, he was determined to pursue his own visual vocabulary. Always the independent spirit, he soon returned to the misty fog of San Francisco and soft blond light near the ocean he so loved. At this time he showed both in California and New York with various galleries, such as Allan Stone, James Corcoran, John Berggruen, and had a solo show at Bradford Gallery in San Francisco which published a color catalog of the exhibition including a forward by renowned art dealer Richard York. This was followed in 2001 with a solo show in the Chelsea area of New York City at the J. Cacciola Galleries.
As the years passed however, it became increasingly clear to him that life really was about the process of painting and the unique opportunity that painting gives the artist to examine and redefine self. In doing so, he determined that the artist has the rare ability to influence others, question and assert values and reflect upon the manner in which the world perceives itself. This conceptual thought process is the basis upon which many of his works developed. It is because of this need for re-evaluation and rethinking perceptions of reality that he later in the nineties started developing personal narrative works that implied specific commentaries imbued with psychological and spiritual overtones. He became more interested in creating paintings about ideas within the aesthetic of realism that addressed basic issues fundamental to life in America but also fundamental to the manner in which America relates to itself and the world at large.
His most recent work is founded from this same narrative, conceptual stance, encapsulating a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies. Specific references to contemporary social and political ruptures explore and question the past and present while providing opportunities to imagine a construct for future action. An avid collector, Bryce accumulates source material that consists of photographs culled from magazines or newspapers; art historical influences absorbed and reassembled; and carefully selected objects, ranging from pieces of sublime significance to those of the everyday -- an Uncle Sam hat, children’s antique wooden blocks, and target practice sheets. This material is the basis of Bryce's contemporary practice. The work is personal, yet imbued with universal perceptions of societal priorities and complexities. It investigates the making of art and the inherent challenges of the human condition through the light of time, both physical and spiritual.