Work

‘Marks on a Blue Field’ series, 1989–1996

19891996

Brian in 'Drawing on Architecture', 1994: "At the time of writing, my paintings tend to be produced in a strict pattern. They begin by covering the stark white canvas with thin washes of burnt sienna oil colour. These washes, as far as I understand them, have two functions. First, they remove from the picture plane the paralysing virginity of the white rectangle, taking away the sense of terror that accompanies the first mark. And second, the different levels of wash create an illusion of depth of field and imply a foreground, a middle distance and a dark spatial continuum. The spatial quality of these watery brush-strokes I find comforting and ancient. It is odd, therefore, that the next step in the current process, as soon as drying is complete, is to paint over the whole of this swirling panorama with thick, dark, unthinned oil paint. Usually a deep ultramarine or permanent blue.

At first sight this impasto colour appears so dark that it looks black. Only as the eyes adjust to the 40-50mm brush strokes does the warm hue of the deep ultramarine become visible. At this stage, some remnants, memories of the swell and splutter of the burnt sienna, still bubble up through the more ordered blue layer of colour. These are consigned to history as soon as the ultramarine is touch dry and ready for a second, third and fourth layer of gradually lighter hues to be applied. At present, these subsequent layers are all blue; but in the past greens, reds, oranges and greys have also been used. Each layer reveals only a little of the one beneath and by the sixth or seventh skin a rich vibrant field of often quite thick impasto is formed. This is the complex plane that I feel relaxed about with regard to drawing, and whether the marks are made with a brush, a pencil, an oil stick or my fingers, the act I perform is drawing." from the monograph Brian Clarke: Architectural Artist.

"Creation is a visceral process for Clarke; he speaks often of the 'stomach nervousness' of his work and there is, especially in his glass compositions, a particular light-handed tension in the tracery of loosly organic shapes – he calls them his 'amorphs' – floating above his signature grids. The same scribbly, almost diffident sense of momentum is apparent in Clarke's paintings – grounds of fathomless blue impasto, scratched with chalky ciphers and pierced with pools of pure colour. Titles make no concession to literalism. An energetic and emotional abstract entitled 'Horseman Pass By' is, it turns out, a painted epitaph to a friend who shared Clarke's passion for Yeats. Until you know this you could go mad wondering." – The Independent Magazine, November 1994.