Work

The Chelsea Window

Capital City Academy, London

1986

"The potent reds of the organic shapes in The Chelsea Window recall Cezanne’s experience of looking at the red interior of a slipper painted by Eugene Delacroix, ‘entering the eye like a glass of wine down the throat’. Cezanne’s phrase captures the physical operation of colour on the body of the viewer, as well as the eye, the particular ‘push and pull of spatially active colour’ noted in Clarke’s work. The semi-transparent has a special spatial potency. Cezanne links the powerful effect of Delacroix’s colour to its glazed, liquid quality; Clarke’s famously repetitive use of emblematic hues, red, green, blue, yellow (again owing something to heraldry) maximise this effect. Their prismatic nature is enhanced by our more physical experience of them emitting light rather than reflecting it. Chelsea Window draws on possibilities available to painters and those that are not. Clarke believes the juxtaposition of the opaque lead further intensifies the colour ‘by a factor of three to four times.’ The transparent red forms are accompanied by shapes in a nearly identical hue but a different, opaque glass material that unexpectedly punches back.

[In Clarke's work] at no point is a motif perfectly repeated; always there is some positional, aesthetic or associational alteration. The Chelsea Window is an early experiment. Organic shapes dance through and differentiate succeeding segments of a black/blue/green grid. Each of these is itself enlivened by modifications in the tonal and directional nuances and light transmitting properties of the silver stain. Fired at different temperatures, it changes from yellow to a powerful red. The inconsistencies of the blue green mouth-blown glass add further modifications. When glass is illuminated by ‘kinetic’ effects of light that alter with weather, season or time, another layer of variation is added – ‘the clouds move, traffic or people pass by behind it.’" Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art at Tate Britain, in her essay ‘Weissnichtwo: Brian Clarke and the Global Sublime’, 2011.