Interview: Mark Titchner on ‘the artist and the public’

Turner Prize-nominee Mark Titchner talks to us about the nature of propaganda, setting art in public spaces and an artist’s fear of storage.

Interview: Mark Titchner on ‘the artist and the public’

What first compelled you to become an artist?

When I was young I liked drawing and then later it became a good way to combine other interests – reading, writing, music. That’s how I first started.

You have previously described your work as prompting “a dialogue about how you receive thoughts and ideas.” Can you tell us a bit more about this?

I’m interested in how we relate to public messages, as they tend to have the same utopian language found in corporate manifestos, propaganda and devotional texts; veering between the disembodied and authoritarian and the personal and optimistic. At some point, these texts become a voice. I’m interested in how we relate to them.

For example, there are prevalent ideas in our culture, promoted by these messages, that suggest there is a lack in our lives that we need to improve upon, or that we should aspire to be better than we are, rather than just being who we are. I therefore try to insert these same thoughts into public settings while offering the viewer space and ambiguity to interpret the message however they want. The point is that it’s not a didactic experience at all, they are free to think, “No, I don’t agree with that”.

Build The World That You Want To Belong In 2016 Mark Titchner

Why is it important to you that your artworks are public installations and available to all?

My works have always held the common thread of being outside, from earlier artworks with posters to the public projects and more investigative processes I’m involved with now, which looks at how artists exist and impact on society.

Tell us a bit more about your public projects?

For two years I worked with FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool on a project called ‘What do You Want More Than Anything Else?’, working with young people in Hull, Wigan and Burnley. I have also worked with asylum seekers and refugees in Manchester as part of Journey’s Festival International, for which the outcome was four large public works that were reconfigured this year in St Helens for Refugee Week.

I also make quite a lot of work that relates to mental health, in particular recently working with the charity Hospital Rooms and creating art directly within the wards. These are all quite humbling experiences and sometimes you start to doubt what you’re doing and see the function of art as quite small. But working in these situations shows you that people need to talk about what concerns them, and art can help in reinforcing to them that their stories are important.

Mina 2017 From The Project What I Want More Than Anything Else Mark Titchner

You are a multi-media artist, working across billboards, lightboxes and hand carvings. What is your favourite medium to work with?

I enjoy the stability of working with processes that I understand, such as digital, print, video; making large-scale things and then being able to go outside and see them in a new setting. However, I try not to get too locked into it and have a love/hate relationship with things like performance projects. It’s what I’m the most scared of doing but when it works, you feel like you’ve really achieved something outside your comfort zone. Also, like most artists, I fear storage, so I make less sculpture these days.

The installation works I make now tend to be more ephemeral in form.

Tell us about the process behind installing your artworks?

It’s quite a long process because, for example, a project that is starting soon has been in the works for three years now, all because of the logistics of installing. We live in a world of extreme health and safety so now I tend to be on the ground with a hard hat on while others do the installing, which is very different to when I first started out.

Ellie 2017 From The Project What I Want More Than Anything Else Mark Titchner

Who has most inspired the way you work?

When I first started out, artists such as Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer had a huge impact on my conception of art. Their practices influenced where I thought art could be found and the effects of the sheer scale of it; when a piece of art is much bigger than you physically, there is a certain voice and experience that comes from that.

What have you been working on recently?

There are three projects I’ve been working on over the last two years, one of which is a public art project in Luton called As you Change so do I. I’m working with a local arts charity called Luton Culture and we received a grant to set up an art programme in the town. I’m working alongside two curators as the lead artist and am producing my own work, as well as inviting other artists to produce work for the town too. There are many temporary works involved in the project but at the end there will be four new permanent artworks in the town. 

I’m also working on a permanent work for Great Ormond Street Hospital’s new research centre which is opening in the new year and have an ongoing engagement project with Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum. This latter one has seen me doing workshops with everyone from the Women’s Institute to homeless charities to students and residents associations, and it will be based on loans from the Art Council Collection of my and Gillian Wearing’s works.

Thomas 2017 From The Project What I Want More Than Anything Else Mark Titchner

What was it like being nominated for the Turner Prize in 2006?

I enjoyed that period of time and seeing how much it meant to my family, and I was also really interested in how public the work had suddenly become while within an institution. It’s a big show and you know a lot of people will see it, but I don’t think I could comment on what it’s like to be involved in it now.

When I was nominated it was pre-the beginnings of the internet and everyone read the news in ‘the paper’, but I think it must be really stressful now as everyone has access to those involved and can voice their opinion.

What made you decide to join Artimage, and what have been the greatest benefits?

Getting paid for the use of your work is quite nice…! I also knew historically that my digital work tends to get reproduced without my permission, so the idea of having some kind of control over that is really important, and Artimage can help with that.

Browse Artimage’s full collection of Mark Titchner’s artworks here, or browse a selected few below:

Where Have We Come From 2016 Mark TitchnerWhere have we come from?, 2016

Eden 2017 From The Project What I Want More Than Anything Else Mark TitchnerEden, 2017, From the project What I want more than anything else

No Them Only Us 2016 Mark TitchnerNo them only us, 2016

Annabelle 2017 From The Project What I Want More Than Anything Else Mark TitchnerAnnabelle, 2017, From the project What I want more than anything else

All of Mark Titchner’s artworks are available for our fast-track licensing service.

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Images: Mark Titchner in his studio, photographed by Brian Benson for DACS. Photograph © Brian Benson, 2018. www.bbphoto.meBuild the world that you want to belong in, 2016 © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Mark Titchner; Mina, 2017, From the project What I want more than anything else © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Simon Webb; Ellie, 2017, From the project What I want more than anything else © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Simon Webb; Thomas, 2017, From the project What I want more than anything else © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Simon Webb; Where have we come from?, 2016 © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Mark Titchner; Eden, 2017, From the project What I want more than anything else © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Simon Webb; No them only us, 2016  © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Mark Titchner; Annabelle, 2017, From the project What I want more than anything else © Mark Titchner. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: Simon Webb.