Local Portrait: Mark Perronet Owner/Curator of Atom Gallery

Written by: Violet Myers

In our ‘Local Portraits’ series we highlight the Inner North London residents, workers and business owners doing amazing things in our corner of London. So far we’ve spoken to Massimo Santoro, owner of the Italian Farmers in Stroud Green, about his former days as a model and what it’s like to start a business in a new country with little grasp of the language. Then we ventured over to Stoke Newington to catch-up with Davina and Michelle, co-owners of Cafe SoVegan, to discuss vegan burritos, changing careers and hosting parties.

Now we’re back in big, bad Stroud Green again and have rocked up on the doorstep of Atom Gallery, our neighbours and one of the area’s creative gems, to speak to Mark Perronet, gallery owner, artist and possessor of many excellent facial expressions.

The Atom Gallery sits on Stroud Green Road, it is home to a variety of contemporary art, design and photography exhibitions, held on a rotating schedule. The gallery’s private viewings are always packed out, with hip looking arty types spilling onto the pavement beyond its doors. A single Aboard sits loftily on the road outside the gallery, usually festooned in some witticism thought up from the recesses of Mark’s creative mind. An artist, gallery owner and specialist in exhibition quality digital and screen prints, Mark is also a funny fucker.

Previously, Mark worked from his Crouch End flat, but when his work and home life got a little too cosy he decided to put up shop in Stroud Green and open a gallery.

Everybody wants to have a gallery, don’t they? Everybody’s arty, I think. It’s a very romantic idea.

Not only does Mark do all of the printing himself, working with a huge and wonderfully nostalgic piece of printing equipment in the back room, he also sources all of the artists he features on his walls, often choosing and representing smaller local artists. He speaks of the joy of selling a piece of work to be displayed proudly in someone’s home.

It’s a huge buzz when you sell something. I make stuff myself so when you sell something it’s always rewarding. The money is good but, on top of that, what’s almost better is that fact that somebody wants to take it away and wants to live with it and that’s the best compliment.

His focus may now be more on selling paintings, rather than creating them, but Mark is still an artist with an impressive portfolio of traditional painting, printing and photography. He studied fine art at Middlesex University, before moving to North London in the early 80’s.

When he left college he didn’t really know what direction to head in and ended up drifting into photography. A twenty-year career followed, during which time he mostly took corporate portraits. It was a living that Mark says was relatively easy, he earned enough money and occasionally a few interesting jobs came his way.

I photographed Ray Davis from The Kinks, it was nice to meet him.

No longer satisfied by the photography industry, Mark set up a free paper called ‘Artswipe’ in order to showcase and share his own and other artist’s work. This is where he began to focus on the art of screen printing.

I did three issues and I interviewed Pure Evil, Dr D and Swifty. A bunch of people in the street art scene. We had an exhibition in the rag factory, just off of brick lane that went really well.

Artswipe proved to be a good starting point in Mark’s work learning how to print for other people. He explains that he essentially gained a pedigree in printing other artist’s prints, learning a lot from the experience of having to create high-quality work for professionals. This was the beginning of things, Mark started to get more screen printing work and doing less photographic jobs. Eventually, he decided he couldn’t be arsed with photography anymore and wanted to pursue printing in more depth.

90% of Mark’s customers are artists wanting high-quality prints for their exhibitions, this makes Mark’s work diverse and ever changing. It also gives him a chance to scout promising new work for his own gallery walls. While many of his customers choose to stick to digital printing, Mark is a highly skilled screen printer, a technique that offers a very different aesthetic. It’s a technique that hasn’t changed since the 1950’s, a very low tech approach that is gaining increased popular in recent years.

I think Screen prints are easier to sell than digital prints because people feel that it’s more of a hand made object. It was all to do with Banksy, that was the beginning of the resurgence of screen printing.

Mark moved to Wood Green from Edinburgh in the 80’s, but now lives more locally near his gallery. Although he’s been sad to watch some of his favourite pubs disappear, he still counts The Faltering Fullback as one of his favourites and loves some of the surprising venues in his local area.

This area’s got a little bit more edge to it, I think. I don’t quite know what it is. For instance, Dotori, brilliant food. It’s quite difficult to get into but the fact that it’s near the railway bridge, I love that, it has a kind of New York vibe. You get this really fantastic food in a grimy location.

Atom Gallery is located on Stroud Green Road and is open Tuesday – Saturday 11pm – 6pm, find them on Twitter and Instagram.

@AtomGalleryN4

Photos by Mike Barry

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