Mark’s childhood was spent growing up in the Woodstock and Ravenhill areas of east Belfast, a socially deprived area of the city, a loyalist community and one where as Mark explains ‘There was a great sense of community, where you could leave your door open, even though it was during the Troubles.’
It wasn’t until Mark was a teenager that he began to understand his family background. The son of an ex loyalist prisoner, in his early childhood, he visited his father every week in prison. He was told his father was a painter and decorator and that he was painting the walls in the Maze prison. He explains that being the son of an ex loyalist prisoner and public figure in Northern Ireland didn’t affect him during his early childhood. Understanding came when he was a teenager. His father received many death threats and the family had to relocate.
Mark learnt about his father’s entry into politics when he saw an election poster on his way home from school one day.
“I saw a poster of my da, ‘Vote David Ervine PUP’ and I’m like, how did that happen? There had been no talk about it in the house.’
Mark and his brother grew up with two loving parents. His mother was very artistic and encouraged him when it came to art. He explains how he always viewed the street murals as art, that they have always been viewed so in working class areas.
“The first time I ever heard of a mural not being an art form and being solely a piece of propaganda came from a professor in a university…I was in my mid 20s. I’d always viewed them as an art form regardless of the message. “
He painted his first mural when he was 6 years old.
Mark uses murals to highlight issues that are not discussed in mainstream media. They are used to inform the community about their history and culture or social issues such as drugs, alcoholism and suicide. Issues that young people are faced with as they are growing up in working class communities.
“It’s about pricking people’s curiosity.’
Mark works on numerous murals with Danny Devenny, an artist from the nationalist community. They met by chance at a photo shoot. The two of them won a silver award at the Belfast Council Youth and Community Awards in March 2009 for a project they worked on together.