Mark Laver was born in 1970 in Victoria, British Columbia and raised in a rural area of Vancouver Island, where he spent his childhood exploring the surrounding beaches, tidal swamps, creeks, and forests. This early immersion in nature has resurfaced as a major influence in his current work.
An avid drawer into his teenage years, Laver nevertheless had almost no exposure to art history or painting until he moved to Victoria at the age of 19 to attend a two-year visual arts diploma program. “At some point in first year I fell head-over-heels in love with painting,” he says. His first instructor agreed, saying emphatically, “Mark, you’re a painter, and you are just going to have to paint for the rest of your life.”
A year-long backpacking trip across Europe followed and he met his future wife in Edinburgh in 1993, with whom he now has three children. In his mid-twenties he was recruited to join a small collective of artists who believed that contemporary art had not kept up with thinking in other fields—and he applied ideas from quantum physics, evolution, and non-Euclidean geometry to experiments with pictorial space, color, and narrative. Around this time, Laver also pursued a BA in Art History and Philosophy at the University of Victoria where he specialized in phenomenology, philosophy of art, and the history of pictorial space in painting. “I did this solely for my art,” he says. “The idea was that I would learn the history of thought (philosophy) and the history of art at a higher level than I would at art school and this, in turn, would benefit my work. I figured I could continue to develop the technique part on my own." Laver has also been working all along, as a cook, food writer and jewelry assembler, part-time when possible, enough to support his family, while leaving as much time, and mental space, for his art.
After the more theoretically based work of his early years, he spent about ten years painting what he called Rural Disasters, paintings of car crashes and rural structure fires inspired by documentary photographs found online. As a counterpoint to the more ambitious studio work, Laver has also painted landscapes onsite, both in daylight and at night, finishing each work outdoors in a single intuitive burst.
His current and ongoing body of work depicts landscapes of a mysterious beauty that is at once luscious and moody, cohesive and in flux. Without reference to photographs, drawings, real places, or even conscious memories, Laver starts with a limited palette and no pre-existing plans, and discovers his paintings in the act of painting, arriving at the composition last. Each work provides its own surprises, as new symbols and motifs emerge, grow, and repeat, adding to his ever-expanding invented world.