2019 – 2020
Vespers is a series of works on paper, principally paintings in watercolour on Velin Arches. Created in the evenings between May 2019 and the end of the first period of Covid-19 lockdown in London 2020, the works are experiments in the nature of paint and liquid colour: gathered together, art critic Robert Storr writes in the introduction to the catalogue, Vespers, they make “an explosive bouquet of natural beauty at its most ephemeral, given that all truly natural things are inherently ephemeral and that beauty assumes its greatest pitch and poignancy when [...] it has been wounded” – the series’ almost-daily investigation capturing an intimate portrait of the times.
“On the surface of it, they’re paintings of poppies, but they’re a bit more urgent than poppies are generally — aggressive, some of them. I wouldn’t want to spend the night with some, but others I’ve fallen in love with. They are devotions, a repeated action of putting down the best of yourself to share – as near as a post-Darwinian realist can get to saying a prayer.” – Brian
"The graphic idiom to which Brian Clarke makes recourse in these new flower drawings is consistent with that of his Night Orchids: what the two bodies of work have in common aside from their floral subject matter is an unpredictable, and frequently surprising liquidity. First and foremost, that liquidity affords the artist an opportunity to display his deft command of gestural brushwork, much as Chinese masters of scroll painting did when given a similar pictorial premise. And like them Clarke is able to eke out subtle suggestions of formal flux and volume from the various transparencies and opacities of a single spontaneous stroke such that a broad poppy petal conjured by just one touch of the brush seems to curve when differently diluted amounts of red pigment settle on the blank sheet of absorbent paper creating exquisitely modulated shadows where the petal warps in or out against the flatness of the sheet." – Robert Storr in the essay Scarlet Sprays for the Winter of our Discontent, from the catalogue of the series.