'Lancashire Cotton Mills', 2013


My love of architecture began with my love of cotton mills. I am built of red bricks and covered in black smog. The cotton mill has been engraved on my psyche since I was born. I watched the mills come to their humiliating end in the 1960s, and I’ve always waited for them to make an appearance in my work legitimately.” – Brian in Manchester Evening News, 2013.

"My character has been shaped irrevocably by my growing up in Oldham - I have always been fascinated by the mills and chimneys. Oldham Twist Mill – where my mother worked – like many of the mills, had a children’s nursery, for children from between two to four or five, and the mothers would drop us off in the nursery and we would sleep in the afternoon – they had little iron beds – and then, at the end of the day’s work, they would pick us all up. And we all walked home together in the road, and all the women had their turbans on, and a lot of them still wore clogs, even in those days, and the streets were cobbled, and the whole street was filled. And we all walked together, my mum and all my aunties, and we were all laughing and shouting and joking, everybody. And it was really nice – this crowd, like a football crowd almost, walking home together. We were always covered in cotton, even the children who were at the nursery in the mills were covered in cotton because there was a little outside bit where we played. And I have a nice memory of that." – from the 2019–2021 biographical vitrine for The Art of Light.

In 2020, Brian adapted one of the 'Lancashire Cotton Mills' into the design for the crest of a new Blue Coat School in Oldham, announced as the Brian Clarke Church of England Academy in 2021.

"Clarke’s 'Cotton Mill' paintings respond to his childhood home of Oldham. The paintings mourn the loss of the cotton mills that formerly drove the Manchester exurb’s economy and Oldham’s subsequent redevelopment. Clarke has cited the Victorian mill as the buildings that inspired his love of architecture and indirectly drove him to his current media, stained glass." – PACE Gallery