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In Memoriam: Artist and technician Mark Prent (1947-2020)

September 23, 2020
By Andy Murdoch

Mark Prent, courtesy of artists' Facebook page Mark Prent, courtesy of the artists' Facebook page, 2019.

The Concordia community mourns the loss of Mark Prent, accomplished visual artist and virtuoso mould-maker, who passed away suddenly on September 2, 2020.

Mark inspired generations of fine arts students, staff and faculty during his 43-year career at Concordia as a Senior Technician in the Mould-Making workshop in the Department of Studio Arts. Mark was well-known for his unequalled technical mastery, and his keen devotion to helping students realize their artistic projects. Everyone knew him as a remarkably generous technician, artist, and person. His priority at Concordia was always getting the best results possible for his students. He will be deeply missed by the Concordia community. 

Born in Poland in 1947, Mark immigrated to Montreal in 1948. He received his BFA from Sir George Williams University in 1972. Immediately after finishing his degree, Mark stepped onto the national stage of the Canadian art scene with high profile exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Isaacs Gallery in Toronto. Known for the exceptional degree of both realism, imaginative horror, and humour in his figurative sculptures, Mark continued to have a prolific and internationally-recognized career for the rest of his life. He had very recent exhibitions at the Gagosian Gallery (New York), curated by prominent film director Harmony Korine; and the Mitchell Algus Gallery (New York). Mark exhibited alongside many of the world’s most renowned artists, including Louise Bourgeois and Andy Warhol, and his work was exhibited in museums all over the world, including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Holland; the Akademie Der Kunst in Berlin, Germany; and the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montreal, Canada. He was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and many Canada Council Grants.

“The Studio Arts community is grateful that Mark’s intelligence and skill can live on through his remarkable body of artistic work, as well as all of the knowledge he has imparted to Concordia students, to whom he was so very dedicated,” says Kelly Jazvac, an associate professor in the Department of Studio Arts.

“Aside from his superior technical skill sets in mould-making, and his accomplishments as a practicing artist, Mark was an extremely kind and gentle soul. Mark was at his happiest when assisting students to realize their achievements. The Fine Arts, Studio Arts and especially the VA building community will truly miss Mark,” says Tony Patricio, a long-time colleague of Mark's and an administrator in the Department of Studio Arts.

‘We were such a team!’

Mark Prent with one of his sculptures at his Montreal gallery, c. March, 1977. Credit: Esmond Choueke/Handout Mark Prent with one of his sculptures at his Montreal gallery, c. March, 1977. Credit: Esmond Choueke/Handout

Monique Deschamps, a technician in the mould-making shop, worked alongside Mark for many years. She remembers first meeting him in 1985 as a first-year sculpture student.

“We hit it off immediately and became friends forever after. I was catching on very quickly with all the aspects of mould-making and casting, to a point that he asked me to work with him. That was the beginning of decades of teamwork together, whether at Concordia, for himself at his studio, for internationally known artists such as Yoko Ono, for beginning artists, even for people in the medical domain. We were such a team!”

They were the kind of co-workers where she could predict the tool he was looking for and hand it to him before he asked for it, she says. “That’s how close we were. We thought the same way.”

Mark was tireless, always laughing, and quick on his feet, she says, with a deep drive to make art.

“He had an endless well of inspiration and he was very prolific. Mark was a very talented artist and created so many sculptures that made you laugh, made you disgusted, but you were always amazed at how beautiful his work is, despite the ugliness it depicted.”

He was always generous with his technical knowledge and tricks of the trade with students, she says.

“He never believed in keeping secret some techniques for himself. He was very generous with his time as well. Mark liked to help people to create their projects. Working at Concordia was never a boring job for him. There was always something new to figure out or solve, the how-to technical aspects of making something.”

‘He helped me believe that maybe yes, I could become an artist’

Mark Prent and horse, photos from Pink House Studios Mark Prent and horse, photos from Pink House Studios

“As a student, I remember what an incredible mentor Mark was, always welcoming, always ready to help,” writes Juan Oritz-Apuy, a new tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Studio Arts.

“His wealth of knowledge not only appeared endless, but had the effect of inspiring confidence. He helped me believe that maybe yes, I could become an artist.”

“Even after I graduated, Mark would continue to reply to my emails whenever I was trying to figure out how to make a mold of something, and I just didn’t know how —this happened often!”

“You were an incredible artist, sculptor and a generous mentor for me. Thank you for helping me learn my craft along with thousands of others. Thank you for always teaching the right way to do it, even when the right way is often harder and longer,” says MFA alumna Breanna Shanahan, a practicing artist and instructor at Mount Allison University. 

“He would write emails that were a mile long no matter what you asked him about. He could cast anything…ANYTHING. He will be sorely missed.”

‘“Go see Mark” was the regular sculpture mantra’

Wolf Krol, professor emeritus in sculpture, met Mark in 1969 when Mark was a student in the first sculpture class Krol taught at what was then Sir George Williams University – on the 5th floor of the Hall Building.

“Even back then, Mark already had a unique unorthodox perception related to art making. He never followed the norm and was always his own person with his own unique vision,” he says.

Mark Prent, 1978. Photo by McConnell, Colin, from Toronto Star archives. Mark Prent, 1978. Photo by McConnell, Colin, from Toronto Star archives.

Once he learned the basics of mould making and casting in class, Mark took off like a rocket, Krol remembers. He worked non-stop in his classes – just as he did for the rest of his life.

"Mark’s days at Sir George Williams and later Concordia went into 36- and 48-hour norms. We all wondered how he kept this up. Well he did, and his life’s artistic, prolific output is certainly testimonial to his superhuman capabilities.”

Mark displayed an extraordinary facility for using materials, processing, and creating, says Krol, and his awards and accolades are a testament "to his immense quality output, and contribution to challenging the norms in Art, as well as redefining them."

As a technician, he continued with a grueling work schedule to help students complete their projects well into the night.

“Go see Mark” was the regular sculpture mantra, he says. 

“His knowledge was so profound that he was often consulted on an international scope, all the while walking around with his grimacing smile, boundless energy, and an uncanny sense of humor.”

Add a message to a memorial messageboard

Obituaries honoring Mark ran in multiple media outlets across North America, including Radio-Canada, The Globe and Mail and The Canadian Press.

For those interested in reading and learning more about Mark Prent’s art, a book called Mark Prent : A Catalog is available for purchase at Pink House Studios, a website Mark ran with his wife, Sue Real.

With his family's blessing, members of the Studio Arts community set up a message board for Mark's family. You can visit the messageboard here to read the posts. Alumni, students, staff and faculty who knew Mark are also welcome to post a message.

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