Shallow Waters with Mark Demsteader

Mark Demsteader, a figurative artist from Manchester, England, became fascinated about bone and flesh after working in his father’s meatpacking business as a child. He began taking art courses as a teenager and spent the next twenty years struggling to find artistic opportunities in a conceptual art-dominated market. By the turn of the century, Demsteader had gained recognition and has since been regarded as “one of Britain’s best-selling figurative painters” (The Daily telegraph).

Demsteader’s paintings are evocative and moody, coupling form and color to create a powerful aura. This piece, Shallow Waters, positions the fleeting gaze of a subject behind a dress-implying blotch of yellow. The yellow is jubilant and empty, lacking refinement yet holding enough intensity to immediately catch the viewer’s eye. The woman’s stare embodies femininity, apprehension, and the difficulty of coming to terms with her identity. Her demeanor seems to fade into the background—a darkness that speaks to the obscurity of human emotion.

It is here that we find a contrast between the complexity of the soul and the fabrication of an outward appearance? We tend to shield our inner feelings to comply with societal expectations. Our world expects us to behave in a certain way, and we attempt to conform by masking the more intricate struggles of the human condition with a straightforward exterior. Such a facade can feel overwhelming and shallow, creating a power-struggle between who we are and who we are expected to be. We hide our emotions because it can feel at times that a lack of vulnerability is the only way to gain acceptance and survive but doing so can have negative consequences like isolation, depression and everything that comes along with living an unauthentic life.

What do you think of this painting?