Merchant Taylor’s first Artist in Residence

Mark Connolly

How do you set about being creative?  Where do ideas come from?  How do you move from a vague idea to its successful realisation?  When to pursue an idea despite difficulties and setbacks and when to let it drop and begin afresh?
These are the questions a modern education needs to equip us to answer as jobs, industry and social relations change with increasing and dizzying rapidity.  They are also the questions an artist faces every day and the art department realised it would be fascinating and inspiring for the whole school and especially boys who study art, to be able to see a full time professional artist at work and watch as they develop a sustained body of work.  Boys undoubtedly could learn enormously from the opportunity to engage an artist in discussion about their working methods, ideas and motivation.
This was the plan when the school advertised for its first ever artist in residence and from a strong shortlist of articulate, interesting, highly creative artists we selected Mark Connolly for the role.
Mark arrived in a blaze of energy and activity and within a few weeks already had a large number of big, ambitious figure paintings well underway.  He has set a high standard of joyful work in the sixth form studio where he works and his friendly manner allows boys to engage with him about his mysterious, atmospheric, colourful images.
He is always very keen to chat about what he is working on and it is fascinating to see the pictures he is making in varying stages of finish.  All these works will be in a Mark's exhibition later this year from Friday 7th December 2018 until Friday 1st February 2019. So do please pop into the art department for a pleasant chat with Mark and a sneaky preview of the paintings that will appear in the exhibition.
Mr Sasha Leech


I studied Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 2014. I undertook an exchange at Sint Lucas Beeldende Kunst Ghent, Belgium. I studied Drawing at postgraduate level at The Royal Drawing School, completing my studies in 2017. I have undertaken residencies with the Griffin Gallery [London], 2016, the Six Foot Gallery [Glasgow], 2015 and a European Commission Collaborative Research Residency with Diego Zamora [Brussels], 2014. Recent exhibitions include, Delphian Gallery [London], 2018, Christie’s, King Street [London], 2017 and Griffin Gallery, [London], 2017.


My practice explores the relationship between fiction and transparency, reality and the unreal dance, this dance usually under the umbrella of a constructed landscape or urban environment. The working title, ‘two of you, two of me’, alludes to multiples of self, doppelgangers, inverted reality, and the myriad of hypothetical realities posed by simulation theory. Memory, imagination and observation contribute equally to each painting.


I am very excited to be working as the artist in residence at Merchant Taylors’. I am a painter, and printmaker based in London, originally from County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Working from a series of drawings and prints I am producing figurative paintings, which explore the human condition, painted in conversation with digital material and language. Romantic intervals are portrayed, voyeurism central to the narrative, intimacy is front and centre in several works currently in progress. Lone figures are set in a stage like setting, their environment reflected in their eyes, the portrayed characters are coming or going, usually in flux.
The residency offers my practice the time and space to develop a substantial body of work, and experiment in the physical realisation of the work. My workspace is located in the Sixth Form Studio, there is a great atmosphere of productivity, a constant flow of through traffic, students, teachers and technical staff passing by.
The dialogue with students thus far has been great, I have been put on the spot with very direct, forthright questions, which is greatly welcomed. I am a firm believer in open discourse, particularly in the studio, as a painter it is not uncommon to spend vast periods of time preparing for shows in isolation, working in an open studio breathes new ideas into work and the conversations that arise as result inform the process of making.

Mark Connolly

Visiting the Exhibition

The exhibition runs from Friday 7th December 2018 until Friday 1st February 2019, with a Private View on the opening night from 6pm-8pm. If you would like to attend the event, please register here

The exhibition is open (by appointment) from 11am until 3pm on the following dates.
To visit the exhibition, please email Catherine Phillips to arrange.

Monday 10th – Thursday 13th December 2018Wednesday 9th – Friday 11th January 2019Thursday 17th – Friday 18th January 2019Monday 21st – Wednesday 23rd January 2019Tuesday 29th January – Friday 1st February 2019