Putting it together: An interview with Mark Ogge

Spiegelworld artist Mark Ogge
Melbourne artist Mark Ogge has been the official artist of Spiegelworld since its debut in New York City in 2006. To celebrate this fabulous achievement, Spiegelworld is presenting an exclusive exhibition of his amazing work to coincide with their current – and final – Melbourne season of EMPIRE on the Rooftop at Crown.

We had a quick chat with Mark about his artistic process, the exhibition and the magic behind the works he creates.

Can you tell us a little about your relationship with Spiegelworld?

Spiegelworld has asked me to create new artwork for each of their seasons since 2006. The creative vision of their shows has been a fantastic trigger for me to reinterpret the themes of circus, vaudeville and the theatrical worlds that have always fascinated me.

What can we expect from The Art of Spiegelworld?

It tracks the work I’ve done for the spiegeltents, which are quite distinct from my non-commissioned artworks. They are populated by characters loosely based on commedia dell’arte, vaudeville, Weimar cabaret and circus, and have something of an old-world feel to them. But I hope they also have a sense of being iconic and timeless.

Do you have a favourite piece you are particularly proud of?

That’s a tough one! I’m most attached to the original design work for The Famous Spiegeltent. It was the first one I did and is what prompted me to really build this strand of my work. The 2007 New York archway for Spiegelworld’s show Absinthe is also a really strong piece and was a big development for me.

Who are your biggest influences?

I love early renaissance art, and I think it actually influences all of my work. But more direct inspirations for this exhibition include Picasso and Tiepolo, Martin Engelbrecht’s 18th century miniature paper theatres and Daguerre’s popular diorama theatre in early 19th century Paris.

The pièce de résistance of the exhibition is a three-dimensional, mechanically operated diorama built by your team. Can you tell us a little about this project?

Some of my previous paintings were set in a theatrical space. So the idea was to actually create that space three-dimensionally and have the figures actually come on and off stage mechanically.

I loved the idea of mechanising the characters and making them come on and off stage and perform. It was reminiscent of the old European automatons of the 18th century, or the way stages were (and still are) actually operated mechanically.

The mechanisation was a real challenge. There are 23 characters, and most require separate motors, some more than one. It’s incredibly difficult to make these things move with the precision required.

What do you love about EMPIRE and why should people see it?

I like to think my own works create a magical imaginative theatrical world for people to enjoy. But EMPIRE does this with real performers and in the beautiful Spiegelworld atmosphere. The acts are absolutely amazing, and the whole experience is exciting, fun and constantly surprising. I’d recommend it to anyone.

The Art of Spiegelworld is on show from 4-16 April at Crown Melbourne, while EMPIRE’s final Melbourne season finishes 11 May.

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