"Don't Forget the Lamb" lead polyptychs, 2008


"The works in the series 'Don’t Forget the Lamb' are distinguished by the predominance of the lead ground and the absence of translucent glass. Were they not occasionally reminiscent of stained glass work, one would perhaps approach them as pictures or sculptures that were created from a completely different perspective. The two elements of lead, a material that has been associated with death since time immemorial, and glass, a material through which the light shines out, assume a particular meaning in connection with the theme of memento mori; this significance is further increased when viewed in the context of stained glass. From the earliest of times, the leads in a stained glass panel have had a dual function: as a supporting structure for the glass pieces and as a conspicuous, graphic network of dark lines. However, with few exceptions, the lead network is generally subordinate to the composition of the light, forming the technical framework for it – its skeleton. Clarke however completely upturns the usual values and the importance of the materials and the relative lightness to darkness are reversed in these works of his. Grief caused light as well as colour to drain from the artist’s life, and transience emerges as a recurrent theme in his work. Outlines of glowing colour still accompany the skulls; even the inscriptions, which would traditionally stand out on pale glass and be clearly legible, are here rendered as faintly gleaming letters on a darkly shimmering lead ground." – Paul Greenhalgh, in The Art of Light.

These three monumental polyptychs, The Office for the Dead, Shopping List, and Don't Forget the Lamb, which has collaged into it a work in oil on canvas, painted by Clarke when he was 25, form the core of the series of 'leadworks', which includes a series of studies or portraits of skulls in lead.

"Clarke turns the art of stained glass on its head. Skulls are picked out in scribbles of molten lead in a sort of macabre graffiti on sheets of forbidding matt-black lead. When he does introduce a splash of glass, it serves to accentuate the darkness. ‘Don’t Forget the Lamb’, a moving tribute to his ailing mother, gives the series [of leadworks] its title: an uncompromising expanse of lead, with a skeleton, an uneven patch of colour depicting fleur-de-lys, and a note from his mother, like a Post-it on a fridge door: 'Don’t forget the lamb'." – the Financial Times, 2018.