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I began painting figures and portraits in 1989.

At the time, I was not interested in the portrait as a representation of anyone in particular. Instead my interest lay in creating a powerful, iconic image. One that could be any number of mythological characters.

I first began painting in watercolor by using meter-wide paper cut from a 10 meter long roll that I stapled to varnished plywood. I stuck to this format for 10 years but by 1998 I was painting portraits in purely in oil.

The larger than life portraits change the way we look at faces. It recalls the way we might regard a lover, intimately face to face, eyes only inches apart.

Though we may feel intimate with these super-sized images, they may be no more than shadowy projections produced by our movie-making minds.

That which we desire plants the seeds that produce our most convincing illusions. And even though we may later discover they are no more than a projection of our own desiring self, the folly, the illusion is far from useless. It will always point us back to ourselves.

To inquire about commissions contact the artist. Prices begin at $6,000.


The Bali Series



100 x 150cm
Oil on canvas
Private collection Houston

I painted Dayu during my first-year residence in Bali with Blue Moon Gallery. She worked in the Agung Rai Museum making offerings to the dieties. An essential activity in Hindu Bali. I wanted to express some of that mystical nature inherent in her work so I had her in sit in candlelight with a sarong covering her head.




Mark and Komang in Peliatan.


100 x 150 cm
Oil on canvas
Collection: Chris Shea Pittsburgh

Jepun is the Balinese name for the Frangipani flowers my subect wears in her hair. A Balinese dancer is a traditional genre for Balinese artists and I wanted to do my own version. I used my assistant's cousin for this painting. She arrived at my studio with the entire family in tow and they art directed the photography session to the point of irritation. At one point, the model gave them all a sideways look and it was that moment that I captured and finally painted in a wicked witch green.





Kadek and Mark outside
the Monkey Forest Studio.


62 x 42”
Oil on Canvas
Painted in the Miami Beach Studio
Collection: Sanjay Tewari, New York

There was a girl who worked in the mask shop next door to my studio on Monkey Forest Road. The intensity of her look immediately caught my eye. Her name was Kadek and right away I asked her to come into the studio for a short photo session. But photographing her was immediately disappointing. Under the harsh indoor lights her intensity withered, the expressions I was getting mundane. I suggested we move back outside to the courtyard and there, surrounded by soft, natural light, she came alive and she knew it. And she told me so.“This is the real Kadek”, she said. And so it was.



The Siobhán Series


Absinthe Drinker

40 x 60”
Watercolor on paper
Collection of the artist

Absinthe, in the late 19th and early 20th century, was a popular aperitif with artists and bohemians alike. Edvard Munch, Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso all frequented the Parisian absinthe bars. When a plague of madness seemed to result from drinking absinthe, the ingredient wormwood was suspected to be the culprit. Eventually it was revealed that turpentine had been used to distill absinthe and this caused the epidemic. Today absinthe, called the green fairy for its light green tint when water is added, is once again available in its properly distilled form.


Sketch for "Absinthe Drinker"




40 x 60”
Watercolor on paper
Collection: David Chesky
New York

The subject is the ancient Greek Oracle of Delphi, women who told the futures of visiting pilgrims and civilizations alive. They did this by spending their day inhaling gases released from tar pits scattered about the landscape, the noxious fumes made them hallucinate causing them to say all types of things which were then interpreted into premonitions.





40 x60”
Watercolor on paper.

I worked with Siobhan Mcauley during my Boston years. It was a fruitful relationship, together we created some 50 paintings over 5 years.

At the time I wanted to move around more when I painted so I chose a large format: 3.5x5 feet. It meant I often had to lay the painting flat and move around it. I used a lot of water, too, which made it necessary to herd the floating pigment around to keep the image intact.
In this painting, Siobhan and I wanted to create an image of grace and dignity. A portrait of a queen or goddess.


Mark and Siobhan in South Beach in 1994




26 x 60”
Oil on linen.

I completed Panja in the Miami Beach studio years after leaving Boston. Knowing it would likely be the swan song of a period of collaboration with Siobhan, I wanted this painting to show a dignity and a sense of graduation. I placed Siobhan seated in the position of a queen and dressed in the flowing saffron robes of a Theravaden Buddhist monk. She holds court surrounded by cyprus trees. The setting is Florida's Peace River, a place I visit regularly for meditation retreats. Its a place of amazing natural silence and spiritual presence.


Watercolor sketch for "Panja"

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All images are copyright © of Mark Rutkowski
All rights reserved.

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