The Art of Light, currently displayed across two floors of the Museum of Arts and Design, spans decades and mediums and includes some of Clarke's major contributions to contemporary art: his freestanding stained glass screens – advancing the technical and poetic potential of the medium, and its role as portable art – and his art-historically significant 'leadworks', monumental inversions of the basic principles of stained glass. Also on display will be selections from his series of drawings and paintings Night Orchids, together with sketchbooks covering five decades of output, and a biographical vitrine displaying items from Clarke's childhood through to the present day. First shown at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in 2018, in late 2021 The Art of Light will go on display at Zaha Hadid's Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, and after at The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
"The screens are a way of getting stained glass into the culture through the back door, so it becomes a portable art rather than architectural art. Developing one’s own language as an artist in the medium of stained glass is limited to or enhanced by the number of projects in architecture one can engage in. It’s a medium that requires experience to tease out from it its essential nature. The editions of screens each represent to me an architectural opportunity, and each are seeking to find an articulate and flexible language to say something that hasn’t necessarily been said before in the medium. They accelerate the process of developing not just the words but the vocabulary and the syntax of a language that normally is restricted to a much slower development because it requires a building for each movement to be advanced. The screens have really unlocked an extremely exciting Pandora's Box: though essentially what you see in them is not that far distant from the craft of the Middle Ages, it is fundamentally different from it in other ways."
"The potential scope of interest expressed in the screens is as broad-ranging as human experience itself is, and I can imagine, when I’m working on them, every possible typology of architecture, every possible type of stylistic experience. I can think about things that I would like to say in meditational spaces, in sacred and in secular spaces, in public spaces, in transport hubs, in little cottages, in airport terminal buildings, in factories. My art is an art for the working class, and the fact that it is owned by so many rich people only means that it encourages the opportunity for me to do it in circumstances where people like me can engage with it. I know that I exist outside of this, but I am a working-class artist. I am very happy if it also pleases or engages intellectuals or professional people, but my art is an art for the mass: I want to communicate this idea of intimacy and poetic transcendence to as many people as possible, and the idea that it is just confined to one social demographic is abhorrent to me. So each of these screens is not only reaching out to one architectural type or societal type of building, it’s also reaching out soul-to-soul between human beings." – Brian Clarke, 2020.
The Art of Light at the Museum of Arts and Design is sponsored by David Yurman.