Mark Brosseau is a space explorer. Not in the strict galactic sense, mind you, but on canvas. He was the kid in 8th grade, who, when the teacher was discussing the Big Bang Theory, wanted to know where space originally came from. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out in my painting,” says the 43-year-old artist. “It’s the only thing I know where I can create a space that didn’t exist before. You’re taking a flat surface and creating a 3-dimensional space in it, and I’m hoping to find out where that space came from.”

In high school, a love of discovery pushed him toward chemistry. “I had a phenomenal high school chemistry teacher who distilled a sense of discovery in everything we were doing,” the Vermont native recalls. Brosseau went to Dartmouth intending to major in chemistry, but his first chemistry class, in a big lecture hall, left him uninspired. So he set his sights on architecture.

As it happened, most of the architecture classes were in the art department. His first drawing class reignited his sense of discovery and eventually led him to painting. In his abstract canvases, he often starts with a simple shape. “I’ll just put [a shape] down and see how it fits on the surface and get a feel for what it’s doing, and that influences the next decision,” he explains.

Photo of Mark Brosseau by Eli Warren

A scientist at heart, Brosseau approaches art as an investigation and is quick to say his paintings are not intended to be a series. “Every time I come to a painting, it’s almost like I’m trying to learn painting over again. I want each painting to explore an entirely new experience.” In October he will be curating a show at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts under the auspices of Tiger Strikes Asteroid, an artists-run gallery that was founded in Philadelphia and now has five locations, including one he recently launched in Greenville.

“I look for relationships of objects in space that surprise me,” states Brosseau, who was one of 107 artists—and the only one in South Carolina—to receive a five-figure Pollock-Krasner grant this year. “Sometimes you have a relationship between a sky and a building, and you know the sky is behind the building, but because of the way the colors are interacting, the sky is coming forward and the building is receding. That’s when things get really exciting. And that forces me to reevaluate what’s going on around me.”

It’s that reevaluation that informs his work with a fluid, playful quality that challenges the viewer to spend time experiencing a painting. “Art is really meant to be felt, not just looked at,” Brosseau says. “I don’t want my paintings to talk to people; I want them to invite engagement.”

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