Work

West Winter Garden, Canary Wharf

Heron Quays, London

20002001

A collaboration with architect Cesar Pelli, for the West Winter Garden at Canary Wharf, opposite the Norman Foster-designed Underground station.. Unexecuted.

"A crucial step in evolving his new approach, Clarke’s renunciation of the linear element of stained glass in favour of exploring form and colour remains an unexpected (if only temporary) strategy for this fluent draughtsman. The three layers of glass from which the works in Transillumination are fabricated are each 1/4 inch in thickness. The radical and complex technique was originally devised for the West Winter Garden, Canary Wharf, which Clarke envisioned as a total environment, rather than a window, a wall, or a decorative membrane. The two flower panels in Transillumination are based on passages designed for the Winter Garden; their elegiac quality and diffused but rich tonalities speak lucidly of a humane gesture, introducing nature as a palliative into a depleted urban culture. The ‘dots’ themselves are executed in enamel glass-paint, which, since glass is a constituent, retains its transparency when permanently ‘fired’ at a very hightemperature onto the raw glass in the kiln. The dot form, which stems fromcomputer technology, the ink pin-dots produced by a dot-matrix printer, also recalls the ‘Ben Day dots’ invented by the eponymous Mr Day in the 1870s to facilitate the half-tone reproduction of photographs in newsprint; the exponent who most notably revived this device in painting was, of course, Roy Lichtenstein. The three layers of glass Clarke employs in Transillumination, painted black, yellow and blue, are also the colours (minus the red layer) used in 4-colour lithography. The opaque black is intended to emphasize the transparency of the yellow and blue layers. The dot-forms, which might be anticipated to resemble a kind of computer-generated pointillisme, equally recall earlier repeat motifs of Clarke’s: Islamic pattern's basic principles. Regarding the deployment of dots, for example, Clarke himself,at the age of twenty-one, in one of his first important public commissions after leaving art school, introduced as a counterpoint in a brightly-coloured design a screen-printed passage based on a monochrome image of diving swimmers. Similarly, Clarke’s devotion to flowers as events – literally and metaphorically – in a field might be attributed to his enduring admiration for the landscapes of Monet and Klimt, to which the designs for the West Winter Garden testify; yet related organic forms have been a consistent feature of his paintings since the mid-1970s. They also occur as spots of vividly coloured ‘petals’ in green ‘fields’ in several of Clarke’s earliest stained glass windows, such as the precociously imposing east window of All Saints Church, Habergham, Lancashire, England (1976) or the series of small panels for Christopher Wood (1978). Clarke’s acknowledged fecundity as a colourist, which may on the one hand indicate the influence of Pop art, probably owes more to his avid study of heraldry, an interest that originated in the weekly class he attended from the age of thirteen at Oldham School of Art. Recently, however, and notably in Study in Grisaille, I, II,and III, his palette is sometimes more muted than hitherto." – art historian Martin Harrison in the essay 'Transillumination'.