'Don’t Forget the Lamb' lead portraits
2007 – 2008
The portraits in lead are a radical set of autonomous lead-and-stained-glass panels, which Clarke calls 'leadworks', executed between 2007 and 2008, from a group of meditations on mortality and the theme of vanitas titled ‘Don’t Forget the Lamb’. The works include ‘An Intellectual in Auschwitz’ – a “portrait of a reflection” of Italian Jewish chemist and author Primo Levi – a self portrait of Clarke, and a portrait of the artist's mother, 'A Cotton Spinner'.
“The works in the series 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.” – Vitromusée Romont director Stefan Trumplër in the catalogue of the 2010 exhibition Life and Death.
Brian in conversation with Doris Saatchi, in the catalogue ‘Don’t Forget the Lamb’ –
DS: "Would it be correct to call these lead-based works drawings?"
BC: “Yes, absolutely. When, after the death of my mother and someone else close to me, I started doing these lead works, particularly the skulls, colour had been sucked out of life for me briefly, and I didn’t feel that I could authentically engage with optimistic colour for a while. As I worked on the skulls, colour began to show up bit by bit and with each work I put my foot back into the world a little deeper. But when you see, as TS Eliot says in his poem, Whispers of Immortality, ‘the skull beneath the skin’, you realise that in the midst of living, death is with us, and I wanted to stay with the skulls.”