Phillips press release for the exhibition 'Vespers' at 30 Berkeley Square

“Delayed for over a year by Covid restrictions, this exhibition’s unprecedented scale now allows Brian Clarke's monumental new cycle of paintings, Vespers, begun in 2019 and continued again through lockdown, to be seen in its full narrative arc. Over 500 works in watercolour form the centrepiece of the exhibition, in which Clarke uses the form of the poppy as the starting point for a strikingly inventive investigation into abstraction and the liquid nature of colour. Gathered together, writes Robert Storr, 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”, employing Clarke’s unmatched experience working with light to evoke the ‘huge walls of flickering colour’, the ‘harnessed euphoria’ he explores through his practice in stained glass, tapestry and ceramic.” – Phillips

I never expected, really, to be a flower painter, but over the last few years I’ve increasingly taken pleasure in looking at the way flowers behave. These new works are very much about the nature of paint. 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. When I’m making these works, new worlds, constellations, start occurring between them. They are me putting down the best of myself to share and they feel, when I make them, choreographing some story across the sheet, like little prayers – as near as, you know, a post-Darwinian Realist can get to saying a prayer. – Brian, 2021.

Summer exhibition of the series of watercolours and mixed media works on paper 'Vespers' at the European headquarters of Phillips in London, in collaboration with HENI. The largest single exhibition of artworks ever displayed at the auctioneer's gallery, Vespers opened to the public from August 5th, 2021, displayed over two floors of 30 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, for five weeks. As part of the collaboration between Phillips and HENI the Vespers series was made available, in full, in a limited duration sale via the HENI Leviathan platform. This historic drop, which followed on from HENI's release of Damien Hirst's NFT 'The Currency', went live on the morning of Wednesday, September 1st, and ran throughout the last week of the exhibition, ending on Friday, September 10, with all 529 available works sold. The exhibition catalogue, prefaced with an essay by art critic Robert Storr, former senior curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, is published by HENI.


The formal and semiotic instantaneity of Clarke’s signs demands to be recognised. The form and subject of his motifs explore the visual qualities of the emblem, an image which is a sign of itself, which strikes the mind immediately and all at once. All Clarke’s emblems, no matter how abstract, are haunted by the human body; his motifs cross boundaries without succumbing to the homogenising aesthetic of the international logo – Nike, Miffy, Red Cross or Red Crescent. Just as he exploits the visual characteristics of his mediums to enhance their emblematic power, so he develops these means to further their unstable, suggestive potential. He employs repetition, both within the image, as in grids of multiplied crosses, scatters of flowers, flocks of birds, shoals of fish and across images, in the form of series, sets and multiple studies. – Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art at Tate Britain.