Olympus European Headquarters, Hamburg

Wendenstrasse, Hamburg


"In 1981, a major commission for paintings, a wood and steel construction, and a suite of stained glass windows totalling 2,150 square feet for the Olympus European Headquarters Building in Hamburg was executed, for which Clarke was given 'complete freedom of the design of the entrance hall for the new building', and at the same time starred in a series of adverts for Olympus cameras." Described by Professor Johannes Schreiter, pre-eminent figure of the Post-War German school of stained glass, as 'the first works to bring the discoveries of Field Painting into stained glass', "the complexity of the designs for Hamburg necessitated the development of special diamond cutting and sandblasting techniques to accommodate the graphic, non-structural role of the lead in places, and marked the start of Clarke's manufacturing his windows in Germany rather than England, a major break with tradition." In addition to the integral stained glass along the ground floor of the building, which had a strong nocturnal presence when lit from within, the Olympus Optical project included three modular, reticular Blue Computergram and White Computergram assemblages, the wood and steel construction The Well-Tempered Environment, and the 1978 painting Golden Section.

Deyan Sudjic in The Guardian, April 1981: "The Hamburg commission strikes out in a new direction, and represents the coming of age of an artist who is still only 27. The windows, arranged in triptychs, are based on sparse geometrical grids, subverted by jagged leaded lines and lush slabs of colour. Technically they represented a considerable challenge. The paintings and windows face each other across the foyer of the building, balancing each other out. The paintings have a grid of their own, echoing the windows with their obsessive repetition of cross motifs. But they also include more architectural elements — you can read some of the shapes as architectural plans, cut up and collaged together. Clarke has large ambitions. He wants to do for art what the Sex Pistols did for music, sweeping away establishment figures and starting again from scratch with a fresh approach somewhere between art and architecture — he calls it the new constructivism."