Mark Khaisman: The Tape is the Message

Mark Khaisman: The Tape is the Message

Some artists only use the materials of the masters (oil on canvas, watercolours, marble, film) while others find inspiration in the ordinary. Ukrainian-born Mark Khaisman belongs to the latter group, and for more than thirty years, he has been sticking it to tradition by producing intricate and layered works that come from humble beginnings

Khaisman 1 packaging tape

Khaisman 3 packaging tape

Made with packing tape, each of these pieces comes to life via Khaisman’s process of layering and stripping away, a process he says he finds “strangely satisfying”. On his website, he offers a clue as to why he might have such artistic inclinations:

“The only explanation for it I can offer comes from the Eastern cultural perception of the self as an onion, according to which if you peel off the outer layers of the onion you find more layers underneath. It makes you want to peel off more, and more, and more to find the pit, but when you finally peel it off to the very last layer you are left with nothing. I do it in reverse, but the feeling that it is only the different direction of the same process feels liberating.”

Khaisman 5 packaging tape

Khaisman 4While the onion metaphor might call to mind a soundbite from Shrek (“you’re just so wrapped up in layers, onion boy”) what Khaisman is fundamentally describing is the discovery of self, the quest for one’s centre—although he admits he takes pleasure in working in reverse, in reeling the film backwards, tape in hand, layering his creations into life before peeling back the surface. The whole process is ripe for psychoanalytic scrutiny.

Khaisman 6 packaging tape

packaging tape creation

Khaisman also likens his artistic process to the redroom process of developing film. He even calls his works “pictorial illusions formed by light and shadow,” as if they belong to the same genre as the Camera obscura. “I play on degrees of opacity that produce transparencies highlighted by the color, shading, and embossment,” he says. His images also have cinematic—or at lest film-based—beginnings, picking up on a still from a favourite film or a photograph he took.


Khaisman says the simplicity and modesty of packing tape make it an attractive material to work with:

“There are some qualities of tape that make it unique for me as an art material: its banality, humbleness and its ‘throwaway’ nature; its default settings of color and width; its unforgiving translucency; the cold and impersonal attitude that tape surface suggests.”

And of course, not to forget, tape’s function for him as an artist: “Tape allows for images that communicate what I’m interested to do in a very direct way.”

Talk about everyday art!