Work

'Studies for the Deliverance of St Peter (After Raphael)'

20112012

Three works from the series ‘Studies for the Deliverance of St. Peter (After Raphael)’. The 2012 cycle of works, executed in watercolour and white pencil on black paper or on black card, function (like many of Clarke's works on paper) as both independent artworks and speculative studies for sculpture. They were followed by a unique bronze titled 'The Deliverance of St. Peter (After Raphael)'. The works take their title from Raphael’s fresco in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican where we see, through the bars of his cell, Saint Peter rescued from Herod’s prison by an angel in a haze of light.

A recent and compelling diversion in the iconography of Brian Clarke’s drawings and paintings—I shall refer to it here as a ‘cloud-form’—signals an ostensibly abrupt shift in his oeuvre. In disclosing the possibility of a fertile new direction it also raises the larger subject of his lexicon of structures and symbols. The pictorial basis of a grid, or net, has characterized the majority of Clarke’s artworks. The grid is a familiar experience in the plain glazing of mullioned household windows, while the more fluid lead matrix, governed by the main outlines of the drawing, is a given in traditional stained glass. But grids functioned for him as a departure point, the foundation for organic interventions, and as arenas for visual events. These ‘events’ usually took the form of enervated lines or biomorphic shapes that set up a duality of tension by disrupting the formal underpinning. Clarke’s clouds appear to have evolved, in part, from exploring the brushmark, the fuzzy outlines that result from under-loading with dry paint. He incidentally ignores neither the dreamy qualities, nor the amusing aspect of these shape-shifting forms, for some of his clouds are arranged with almost comedic levity. In some of these drawings the internal four-by-four square grid has become a painterly object in its own right, its smudged strokes of yellows, gold, and grey acting as a counterpoint to passages of spontaneous linearity. Clarke’s ligatures and flourishes, partly co-opted from calligraphy, in which they link or complete letters, take the line for a Klee-like walk, wilfully resisting the formula of continuous or added marks and extending into unwound swirls or tapering serpentine strokes.” – art historian Martin Harrison in his essay ‘Brian Clarke: Silence and Tumult’, from the 2011 catalogue ‘Between Extremities’, published by PACE Gallery.