"THE CULMINATION OF ALL LIFE'S EXPERIENCES IS THE WELL FROM WHICH YOU CAN NOURISH YOUR CREATIVITY."
Marc Fishman was born in 1971, in the capital of Moldavia, Chisinau, which was then part of the Soviet Union. His father was a tool and dye maker of incredible expertise, an artist in his own way with metals. His mother is a jack of all trades, extremely competent in a wide range of skills from managerial work, to computers and economics, to cooking. At the age of seven his family immigrated under refugee status to the United States, giving him a foundation unlike many kids born there, however, finding friends was not easy. Being Jewish made one an outcast in the Soviet world and different in the American world. Being a minority always gives you an interesting take on the society you inhabit "for you are able to see it from an outside view if you choose to embrace your differences."
Marc's work shows echoes of the symbolists, of pre-Raphaelite and visionary art, with love for Watts, Waterhouse, John Martin, Blake, and Dore, amongst many others.
His illustration work can be seen on the covers of fantasy novels from Wizards of the Coast, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Magic and others. He has worked as a concept designer for the motion picture Narnia and illustrated George RR Martin's Game of Thrones novels. His work has hung in galleries in NY, Paris, Brussels, Galerie Morpheus in Beverly Hills and a one man show at the Villa D'este hotel and spa on Lake Como, Italy.
Marc’s careful use of colour and detail bring out something intensely human from the supernatural. His introduction of the fantastic adds another dimension to the dialectic of reality that art tries to explore. The obvious contrasts that we have grown accustomed to view in our human existence, such as, good versus evil, dark versus light, death versus life and violence versus grace, but which our complex and confusing natural existence can rarely be reduced to, have been dissected through mysticism and fantasy throughout human civilization. Thus, Marc gracefully builds on a tradition that spans artistic expression and human history, a tradition as much of Blake as of Homer, of Delacroix and as much of JJR Tolkien.
Q. What role does the artist have in society?
A. There are many kinds of artists with many kinds of roles. For me, the role of an artist in society is to be that which helps transform it from a static state into something more dynamic. An artist ought to be that point at which the past touches the future, tradition touches the modern, something like the crossroads between legacy and novelty. They must be ready to take the baton that historical contingency presents, and as the bridge, create an integrated system from a subtle synthesis of old and new. This will become part of tradition for future generations, so artists reach with the baton in hand, hoping without proof, that there will be someone to take it. Doing what we have always done ensures that we will stay what we have always been. The artist is that element in society that breaks that sense of comfort, he makes us think and move from the static into the dynamic, from merely existing to widely living.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. A lot of memories begin with my family immigrating to the United States. It was 1979 and I was 7, we were on a train from Moldova to Austria. I had just gotten over an illness and my father and I were in our sleeping quarters, I stood up with curiosity and asked my father, what the lever on the wall was for? I don't remember how exactly the next thing happened, but the way I picture it is that at that very moment the train shifted a bit, which made my dad lose balance and since he was next to that lever he inadvertently grabbed it to stabilize himself. The train came to a screeching halt and with our good luck, it stopped right on the border of Czechoslovakia at the time with Austria. From one end of the train we had soviet Czech soldiers with machine guns enter and from the other the Austrians with guns pointed and both knew exactly where to go. I remember the Austrians shouting at the Czechs to get off the train and one of the soldiers was left with us as a precaution until the next stop. That soldier later gave me my first piece of western gum, it probably was the first piece of a gum I ever had, this ended up being a good memory.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. I drew and painted pretty much all my life, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I could be an artist. The thought simply never crossed my mind, having been an immigrant with the full weight of my parents' pressure to become something more than they were. This always meant financial security, so I went to university still with that in mind. I entered a premed program in order to be a physical therapist, that was never to be.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. I have been told that I have been creating art since before I can remember. But my first real memory of drawing was in Italy, during our immigration. When we left the Soviet Union, we had about a months stay in Vienna, Austria, in a refugee halfway house. Afterwards, we were off to the suburbs of Rome,Italy, I think the town was called Ostia on the sea. I had been exposed to comic books, particularly Conan, and I remember sketching from that very often, for the next several months, before we left for the United States.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. I would say it was when I decided to quit university and the premed program I was nearly finishing. My father became seriously ill with lung cancer during that year, and I returned home to help him and my mother, he lasted for only three months. This profoundly changed my life, for my father and my mother were those types of parents that always put off what they wanted to do, for their children's sake. This is the only way they knew how to live. There was always more time, but unfortunately, not for my father. I decided then, that I would do with my life what I wanted, that I would direct it as much as I could in the course that calls to me. The premed program was done for the sake of my parents and their desires, but if I was to return to university, it would have to fulfil me. This was the moment of no return, I left the medical track and set off in another direction entirely.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. Its hard for me to call what I do a style other than for its representational quality. There is no formula that I follow, I intend to begin every painting differently than another. Each particular subject and piece has it's own journey. The canvas and the subject begin to dictate their path to the artist, who must follow it faithfully, or else the planned will fully overtake the imagined. The plan is the ego which is always there, but the magic is in the dialogue between the plan and the subject, confronting it with the material at your command.
It is your job as an artist to referee the conversation between your plan and the new empirical information. So that what is arrived at is a dialectic between your intellect and your intuition of the object. When I see a painting I do not like, it is one where I can see that the artist hardly ever deviated from his original plan, he did not take into account that he is working with and in the world around him. Even if what he is creating is coming from within, he only performed half of the operation at his disposal. In the immortal words of Mike Tyson, most definitely an artist in his field, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Art is not a plan, it is a punch in the mouth.
Q. How do you visualize the textures of your work?
A. There is a refractive quality to paintings. Layers in oil paintings reflect light as it passes through them in different ways and as we move from one angle to another. This is what brings movement to a painting, something that is never translated to a print, a quality that cannot be copied, but must be appreciated in order to have the full experience. This is not texture for texture's sake, but rather a virtual composition created by layers of paint reflecting and refracting light in special and unique ways. This gives what is absolutely static a sense of motion.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. I aim to express movement. I aim to express the idea that lies beyond the immobile piece of art. I want the viewer to take a walk through it, as if stepping through a window in which the piece is just the portal to the synthesizing power in their mind. We all must experience life and art as a process that also involves us. We must never sit idle and just be spoon-fed nature, as if we do not exist to taste it, swallow it and use it for fuel. If we allow it, we can be the point at which the portal opens. If the artist is able to capture enough of the ineffable emotions felt at the beginning of his creation, the viewer might be brought through it, even against his will. But a painting hardly ever reaches those heights and a true appreciation of art needs a subtle perceptual quality in the viewer, a quality that doesn't rest in the plane of the two-dimensional image but transcends it.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. I have difficulty allowing only one take on a thing to hold sway over anyone that is in dialogue with me. I always see the possibility of a new angle, while people feel certain of theirs and aim to address the view they are wed to. The discomfort in seeing another, maybe two, three or four more options is displeasing to the seeker of a comfortable existence.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. The ability to fit into the natural schematic of society including family life, children, norms. This sacrifice is palpable and doesn't escape my thoughts, I am confronted with it almost daily. Periodically the question of its worth comes up and I am never quite sure of the answer. When we choose one path, we don't get to know what could have been had we chosen another. We are motion, we are movement, we are life, we are not fixed, stationary or dead. Only the dead feel no tension, only the dead stop aching for meaning. Life is a struggle, life is wrestling with meaning. Above all other human endeavors, art is a search for and communication of said meaning.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. I am always inspired by great work, it can be one piece of art from a single artist or an entire body of work, modern and classical. The classical, however, is fully laid as the foundation of my art world, and mainly one artist rises above all others. Michelangelo Buonarroti has become the greatest synthesizer of matter and spirit that ever lived, at least to my mind. He expressed poetry in the most static of arts, sculpture, and he did it with the utmost subtlety of technique, restraining an iceberg of meaning just below the surface. His work never gave you everything he could do, it never dazzled you with virtuosity but in its very restraint, monumental levels of proficiency can be felt. I saw this when I was studying in Florence for about 4 months, I had not yet come to appreciate his work and in every piazza I saw a copy of the David. The copies did nothing for me, the outward perfection of the surface showed no movement, only the static representation of a representation. Most of the time there I had no interest in seeing the original. Finally, I decided to go to the Academia, where David stands and boy was I blown away. I couldn't imagine the difference in experiences between the copy and its original. Walking up, my emotions began to resonate with him and I immediately saw beyond the surface. I could see the intention of the artist's game with the form. The unusual geometry of the figure, the expression in the hands, every finger worked towards the unity of the whole, it was almost impossible to break it down and see what exactly was the key. It was in its wholeness, not the parts that made it up. As starting artists, we are looking for the way someone executes a technique because that is what we are also usually trying to do. We start off looking at details, thinking it is the details that create the magic but this magic is fleeting, it is the holistic assimilation and relation of the pieces that create the magic.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. I think from afar it can look very lonely as the necessary component is to be alone while creating. But from the inside, it is not lonely at all, the time spent with ones own self is quite a joy.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. I love to read non-fiction, be it philosophy, theology, psychology or geopolitics. I also love to be in the woods hiking with my dog and exercising. I fully believe that a healthy mind is a healthy body, and a healthy body is a healthy mind, everything feeds into everything else, everything complements everything else. In one of my favorite bands Rush, Neil Pert had great lyrics.
Let the truth of love be lighted,
Let the love of truth shine clear.
Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty,
With the heart and mind united in a single perfect sphere;
This I aim to live by.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. My philosophy lies in the realization that art can easily become an idol of worship, of too much appreciation or glory for the artist. Art becomes dead in this sense, for when it is settling in adoration for the viewer or for the creator, the greater story is not appreciated, the metaphor that is hidden in the literal image, never sets sail, so to speak. The movement from the fixed state of the image, to the living event in the state of mind that created it, is not there.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. How limiting our frames of reality are. How certainty can be a hindrance to our growth and although it feels good, it isn't, because it makes life static and old with no addition of novelty. Most of all, that every frame we adopt must be broken out of and integrated into the next larger frame. That tradition must not be replaced but integrated into novelty, creating worlds on top of worlds, instead of destroying a world to inhabit another.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. When I first began exploring art, I tended to do a lot of copying of art I liked, believing that making a good copy is the meaning of good art. Sometimes I would show my father and I remember him at one point in time finally saying to me “sure, you can copy well, but when are you going to create something from within?”. This admonition sits with me and constantly calls for me to dig deep within and find my own voice.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. My only advice to the younger artists is that it takes an incredible amount of hard work. Just work harder at becoming a better artist, at becoming a better person – well-rounded, balanced and observant. Think of yourself as not only a creative vessel but as a recording device. Observe and analyze the world around you from the mundane to the sublime. Be interested and inquisitive. Don’t take any moment for granted, see through it to find out what it has to offer. The culmination of all of life’s experiences is the well from which you can nourish your creativity.