Work

Rose Fleurs de Lys

2003

Several artworks in which Brian Clarke explored the heraldic fleur de lys in stained glass were created in 2003, among which are these three 'Rose Fleurs de Lys', the polyptych 'The Five Principles of Romance', and the work 'Between Extremities', which has the stylised lily executed in mouthblown glass and lead on a ground of collaged newspaper articles – press coverage from the litigation which Clarke (as sole executor of Francis Bacon’s estate) brought against Bacon’s former gallery – screenprinted on and fired into the glass. Together with the 'Francis Bacon Triptychs' of the same year, this work memorialises his and John Edwards' involvement in the Bacon trial; the piece takes its title (as do many of Brian’s works) from the poetry of W. B. Yeats, whose ‘Vacillation’ starts: "Between extremities Man runs his course". His calligraphic investigations of the medieval symbol were extended in the austere abstract portraits of the same year, the 'Grisaille Fleurs de Lys'.

Moving with frequency between the polarities of my experience is a fertile source of ideas. Somewhere between anguish and joy lies a region taut with further contradictions. If art speaks truth to power then in my view both compelling forces need to be addressed. The desolate truth carried in profundity is made even more striking when matched by the sublime energy of the decorative.” – Brian Clarke, in the Vitromusée Romont catalogue of his 2010 exhibition Life and Death